UPDATED MARCH 12
As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rise in Santa Clara County, with 66 now reported, and the first fatality due to the new coronavirus reported Monday, local schools are introducing new practices and protocols to protect students and their families.
Below are the latest policies to come out of elementary and high school districts serving Mountain View and Los Altos students.
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.
Mountain View Whisman School District
● Schools: Open
● Events: Many are postponed or canceled. Check for notifications.
On March 12, the Mountain View Whisman School District took additional steps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following measures were announced in a statement from district Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph.
• Middle school sports events and practices are canceled until further notice, a policy that will be reconsidered during spring break, set for April 6-10.
• Students who are well should continue to attend school. The district will respect the decision of families who choose to keep their children home and will not be taking truancy action or disenrolling students who have unexcused absences.
• The district is developing grade-level packets students can work on through spring break that will be available for pickup on Wednesday, March 18. They can also access online learning tools like i-Ready, Khan Academy or Zearn through Clever.com.
• The district will continue to assess the possibility of school closure on an "almost-daily basis," in consultation with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Families should prepare plans for child care in case of school closures.
The district is also following recommendations from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and other health agencies have led to updated practices the district has adopted, effective March 6, the district said in a written statement.
The district has postponed or canceled non-essential events depending on duration, attendee proximity and size. However, sports events and practices will continue as scheduled. Spectators should stay at arm's length from each other and high-risk spectators should avoid attending.
"The state of California has issued a state of emergency, a preparatory measure so that public agencies can have more access to federal resources to combat the coronavirus. There also have been recommendations about 'social distancing,' or ways people can reduce their close contact with others," according to the statement.
When it comes to preventing or mitigating the spread of the new coronavirus, students and staff are being reminded about hand washing and provided alcohol-based sanitizing wipes. The district will continue to disinfect and clean school facilities, including using industrial-grade misters to disinfect common high-traffic areas and classrooms regularly.
Masks aren't being recommended for healthy people at this time and the district won't be providing them to students. However, if parents want their child to wear his or her own mask at school, that request will be honored so long as it doesn't prove to be a classroom distraction. The district may ask families where they have traveled, and if there are concerns, district nurses may screen students.
People who care for a child with underlying health conditions should consult with a healthcare provider about whether the child should stay home.
If a student or family in the district is confirmed to have COVID-19, the county's public health department will be in contact with the district and with the affected people. Students who show signs of illness will be assessed by a school nurse; students who demonstrate a fever and respiratory symptoms at school will be put in an isolation area with a surgical mask, if tolerated, before being picked up.
If a school closure were to happen, the district would permit distance learning, or having children do schoolwork online. While the district has the technology available, it states, it "does not replace the teacher in the classroom. It comes with its own challenges, especially for parents who still have to be present at their workplaces."
Many of these policies will remain in effect until June 4, with potential reconsideration on April 3. Access the full list of new policies here.
Los Altos School District
● Schools: Open
● Events: Many are canceled. This includes off-site field trips. Check for notifications.
While schools remain open, events between now and Spring Break will be canceled depending on the event's size, duration and the expected attendees' age-group mix and ability to stay spread out. This guidance is in line with new guidance from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the county Office of Education, according to a March 8 update from Los Altos School District Jeffrey Baier.
At the district's upcoming board meetings on March 9 and 12, people will be asked to sit at arm's length from one another. Meetings will also be webcast and can be viewed here. People may submit public comments to the board at [email protected]
In addition, the district will continue to conduct passport checks for newly registering students and ask anyone who has traveled to one of the countries identified at risk levels 2 or 3 in the last two weeks to self-quarantine and avoid school or work for 14 days after returning to the U.S.
At its March 9 meeting, the board voted unanimously to tentatively approve an emergency response plan, including options for distance learning.
Mountain View Los Altos High School District
● Schools: Open
● Events: Many are canceled. Access the full list here.
When it comes to local high schools, classes are being held as usual, for now. The district notes that children and teens have not been shown to be high-risk becoming seriously ill from the virus. The district recommends that students who feel ill stay home, according to a March 6 statement from the Mountain View Los Altos High School District.
The district has ordered a number of portable washing stations to be placed in strategic areas at Los Altos, Mountain View and Alta Vista high schools, as well as at Freestyle Academy, to encourage student hand-washing.
As of March 6, the district was working to develop a protocol for large gatherings like sports events and field trips.
"We are reviewing events and cancelling, if appropriate," said Superintendent Nellie Meyer in a statement.
As of March 10, many student events and trips were announced to be canceled or postponed. These include trips such as Los Altos High School's planned choir tour in New York City from March 13 to 17, and Mountain View High School's Madrigals Music Tour in New Zealand from March 27 to April 9 as well as a student acting trip to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon from April 3 to 7. Access the full list here.
If a student or staff member at a school is confirmed to have COVID-19, the county public health department will consider whether it's warranted to close the school.
In addition to what local schools are doing, California health leaders have released new guidance for school districts, colleges and universities on how to respond to COVID-19, including preparing for potential school closures.
"It's a question of when — not if — some California public schools will face closure because of COVID-19," said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who declared a state of emergency in California last week. "School districts must prepare for these scenarios so that parents and children can plan for what would happen if their local school faced closure."
If a local public health department has confirmed two or more community transmission cases but no staff or students at a school have tested positive for COVID-19, the state Department of Public Health is recommending schools limit visitors; consider alternatives to large group events, such as assemblies; stagger recess time to limit the number of students who are together; and consider relaxing requirements for a doctor's note for students to come back to school after an illness.
Under this scenario, the state suggests not allowing anyone with symptoms of fever and/or respiratory infection or who have traveled in the last two weeks to an area identified as a level 3 travel health notice (avoiding all nonessential travel) to come to schools. Teachers and staff with any symptoms should not come to work and others should self-screen daily, including checking for fever or cough, before interacting with students, the state said. Districts should ensure sick leave policies to allow teachers and staff with symptoms to stay home.
If a single student, teacher or staff member tests positive for the new coronavirus and exposed others at school, public health officials suggest schools consult with their local public health departments to determine whether a school closure is warranted and for how long, "based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local public health officer." Schools should consider developing a plan for how to continue educating students, as well as to provide meal plans and medical and social services.
In this scenario, schools should remind parents, teachers and staff "of the importance of community social distancing measures while school is closed, including discouraging students or staff from gathering elsewhere," the guidance reads. Other measures include canceling group activities or events, religious services, after-school classes and athletic events.
Schools should also develop communication plans and send information to parents and staff about labor laws, paid family leave, disability insurance and unemployment insurance, the state said. (The California Employee Development Department is encouraging people who are unable to work due to exposure to COVID-19 to file a disability insurance claim.)
Before reopening a campus, school administrators should review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to determine if additional cleaning protocols should be implemented.
In the most extreme scenario — multiple schools within a school district have a student, teacher or staff member test positive for the new coronavirus — administrators should consult with local public health officials to decide whether additional school closures are necessary.
"Closing schools is a difficult decision as it has impacts on families and employers," the guidance reads. "The state will continue to assess the situation and provide information as needed."
State education and health leaders also urged "schools to ensure students' and staffs' privacy to help prevent discrimination or unnecessary stigmatization."
The Department of Public Health issued similar guidance for colleges and universities. Additional recommendations for higher-education institutions include immediately contacting their local public health department if administrators notice "concerning clusters of respiratory disease or spikes in absenteeism," and isolation guidelines for students, teachers or staff who test positive for COVID-19.
If more than five students, faculty or staff at a college or university test positive, administrators should work with local public officials on whether to close the campus.
At Stanford University, which moved all in-person classes online starting Monday, a School of Medicine faculty member has tested positive for the new coronavirus and two undergraduate students were in self-isolation this weekend after possible exposure. On Sunday, the university announced that it was not aware of any Stanford students who have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Public health officials continue to remind schools and the broader public of the precautions anyone should take to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, including washing hands frequently; covering sneezes or coughs; avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; staying home when sick; and seeking immediate medical care if symptoms become more severe.
Read our latest updates on local coronavirus cases here.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.