Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Janet McLaughlin
Observer Staff Writer 

In the Wake of Coronavirus Fears, at Least a Dozen Local Private Schools Have Closed Down

SMMUSD Denies Any Coronavirus Infections. Stairway to the Stars Concert Cancelled

 

March 15, 2020

File photo

A student walks to school in Tuesday morning rain.

Coronavirus has caused the closure of a Santa Monica school, St. Anne's Catholic Elementary School on Colorado Blvd. The one day closure, a spokesman said, "was out of an abundance of caution, and concern for the safety of our children." The school reopened Tuesday, "on the advice of the Archdiocese."

One of the staff--not a teacher--believed she may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and she decided to self-quarantine. St. Anne's School decided to close Monday to perform deep cleaning as a precautionary measure. This from Adrienne Alarcon, Director of Media Relations at the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Crossroads School announced late Wednesday, that it would close for two days. "We want to emphasize that there are no known cases at Crossroads," says a statement from the school. But they urged students to take home with them what they would need to continue instruction at home, "should the need arise." Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences is the largest private school in Santa Monica, and offers K-12 instruction.

Geffen school in Westwood decided to close this week. All of their students are taking classes on line. Windward Academy is also apparently closing. UCLA and USC are likewise online only. Late Wednesday afternoon, Pepperdine decided to close and send all students home. SMC is closing Friday. https://www.smobserved.com/story/2020/03/11/news/smc-to-suspend-all-classes-beginning-friday-march-13-due-to-coronavirus/4487.html

Official word from SMMUSD Wednesday morning: out of an abundance of caution, mostly due to a large gathering, the District's annual Stairway to the Stars concert is cancelled for 2020. Angela Woo, Director of Instrumental Music and Chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at John Adams Middle School, writes:

"Band, orchestra, and choir after school rehearsals are no longer necessary because there is no longer a Stairway concert to prepare for. Theatre rehearsals will continue as long as JAMS classes are in session and as long as our shows are on schedule for May. At rehearsal, students do not contact as many surfaces as they do in the ordinary classroom, since we do not use desks, tables, laptops, door knobs, etc. Still, we will have students wash their hands before rehearsal and before snack. All of our snacks are individually wrapped."

Simultaneously, Superintendent of the Santa Monica Unified School District, Dr. Ben Drati, issued this statement: "There are no known cases of COVID-19 affecting staff, students or parents, in our school district. We continue to participate in daily meetings and calls to best prepare for an outbreak and to support our community. We would like to remind you that the State of Emergency declared on March 4, 2020 by Governor Newsom was preparation-based, not because an outbreak currently exists. An emergency proclamation is designed to focus resources and expedite government response."

Dr. Drati added:"We have activated our Emergency Operations Center and we have reviewed, updated, and are ready to implement our pandemic plan if needed. Part of our plan includes the ability to continue to offer our students an education remotely if schools need to close for an extended period of time. We are confident in our ability to do this if it becomes necessary. We will continue to review and analyze our options and will remain in close contact with LACOE and the California Department of Education (CDE) for further guidance if this option is needed."

As schools across California have begun closing in response to coronavirus cases, nervous Santa Monica parents are wondering whether their child's school might close. And if that happens, what they will do for childcare while at work.

The California Department of Public Health has released some guidelines for schools to determine when to shut campus doors. "School leaders, in consultation with public health departments, can consider closing their doors if even one student, teacher, or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, and exposed others to the virus. In consultation with the local health department, school officials may determine readmission criteria after the school closures", the guidelines state.

As of now, individual schools are determining themselves when to reopen. Some have moved up their Spring Break to right now, to minimize the time lost in classroom days. Others have shifted to online classes, and LAUSD has warned this may occur across the district

Other precautions schools should take include: Limiting the amount of time students spend together in large groups, staggering recess and lunch times, and conducting large gatherings like assemblies via webcast. Campuses should also consider limiting visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms, or who have travelled recently to areas identified by the CDC as "Level 3 Travel Health Notice."

LA county also recommends that" if classrooms stay open, be prepared to divide classes into smaller groups of students, and rearrange desks so students are spaced at least six feet from each other in a classroom, as much as possible."

A student walks to school in Tuesday morning rain.

Dr. Drati said: "Since the first case of coronavirus in Los Angeles County was reported at the end of January, our custodial team has increased sanitation efforts in all of our schools and throughout the district. Our team will continue spending additional time and increasing its frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, especially in regard to high-traffic areas and touch points.

The district has ordered classroom supplies including hand sanitizer and disinfectant, however, some items are on backorder. We do have some supplies on hand. Our school nurses have been trained and able to properly isolate a student or staff member if concern of this virus arises. We are working diligently to provide these products to assist with classroom cleanliness. We can't emphasize enough that hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds is the preferred method for students and staff and please keep sick students at home. Sick staff should also stay home."

 

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