GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools wants to make sure parents know there's a plan in place should coronavirus become an issue within the district. The idea is to be transparent and clear about decision-making; closures and cancellations shouldn't come as a surprise. During a press conference on Wednesday, GCS said they've equipped schools with more sanitation supplies such as hand sanitizer. School officials also said there are no plans at this time to cancel any field trips.
"We hope the coronavirus doesn’t impact Guilford County and our schools however we know that that thought would be short sighted," GCS Chief of Student Services Dr. Wanda Legrand said.
Guilford County Schools' plan consists of four phases.
Right now, we're in phase one, which is a proactive and preventative phase.
"We purchased several large quantities of hand soap, paper towels, and dispensers," Dr. Legrand explained. "We also purchased disinfecting wipes, we've produced fact sheets and communicated with parents and principals."
Cleaning supplies were delivered to all 125 schools after the first case was confirmed in North Carolina.
"One example is cleaning school buses twice a day, disinfecting those and putting hand sanitizer on those buses," Chief of Schools Dr. Tony Watlington said. "We’ve also prioritized some really high frequency areas in schools to include media centers, certainly school locker rooms and athletic facilities."
District leaders and teachers are making sure students and staff exhibit good personal hygiene. Washing your hands and keeping surfaces disinfected is the best thing to do right now.
The next three phases involve the future. These phases deal with things that might happen but have not happened yet.
Phase two lists the steps for responding to a coronavirus case in Guilford County, but not necessarily at a Guilford County school. If that happens, GCS will contact local and state health leaders, increase cleanings at schools and limit public gatherings and meetings.
Phase three involves if a coronavirus case is identified at a Guilford County school. The district says they will notify parents then close and clean the school in question for at least one day. Timetables on how long the school will stay closed would be decided depending on the factors involved in the case, should it actually arise. The district would then cancel public meetings and gatherings.
Phase four is the worst-case scenario: if there are multiple coronavirus cases in multiple Guilford County schools. In that situation, all affected schools would close indefinitely and all-district activities would be canceled. Again, that is a worst-case scenario.
The point of all of this is simply to have a plan in place. Preparation is important. Panic is unnecessary.
1. Are any field trips or large gatherings going to be cancelled?
We have a list of all field trips that are planned in the district throughout the conclusion of the school year. At this time there are no bans on any fields trips. However we do monitor it daily and we follow the guidelines from CDC about places we ought to avoid and by a day by day basis will continue to review those. If cancellations become necessary we’ll communicate that but at this time field trips that are planned are ongoing.
2. How will the district handle the situation if there's a confirmed case within the school system?
Should it become necessary the district is prepared to utilize online learning if it becomes necessary in any schools that would need a closure because of coronavirus.
3. If the district does have to close some schools, what will be provided for students who depend on school meals?
If school had to be closed the district is working on contingency plans where students could receive those meals in alternate locations as some school districts have done that across the country. That might be local recreation centers and those plans are under development since many kids get meals and other services during the school day.
4. Spring break is coming up - what are you telling parents and students about travel during that time?
We are requesting that parents or guardians inform schools by telephone if any one of their households visits any areas the CDC has listed as problematic areas. We're asking those students to voluntarily stay home for 14 days before they return to school so we are well prepared to prevent any additional problems with COVID-19.
5. What is a main message you want to send to parents and staff?
We really do want students or staff members who are sick or feel like they might be ill to stay home. So, we’ve discontinued any incentives for perfect attendance or very good attendance because we don’t want to send mixed messages. We want folks to take care of themselves first.
For complete details on Guilford County Schools' coronavirus plan, click here.