School district coronavirus update

Dear students, families, and community,

Information on novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can at times be daunting and even confusing as we receive conflicting information from multiple sources daily. In an attempt to keep you informed, I have summarized the most relevant information that pertains to our students, staff, and the district. This pertains to our school district only. For health information or other specifics on COVID-19, I would suggest starting with the CDC or the State DOH. Please note that this information may likely be outdated before you have a chance to retrieve it from your inbox; information, protocols, and guidance are changing that quickly. What we know as of today:

From the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction:

Things are changing rapidly; almost hourly at times.

Identified infections are doubling every 6-8 days; will likely accelerate as more testing is conducted.

King and Snohomish Counties continue to lead in the virus spread and response.

DOH has started discussing regional and state closures of schools. No decisions have been made at this point.

Districts should understand the process the King and Snohomish county health departments are currently adhering to when determining whether schools should close. At this time, both county health departments have determined schools should not close until there is a student or staff member with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Superintendents, County Health officers and Governor have the authority to close schools.

Responses have generally been 1-3 day closures for deep cleaning.

The only direct closure thus far has been Hazen HS Renton.

Meridian District closed because K-12 rode the same buses and lots of school crossover.

NorthShore is the only K-12 system to go all online.

OSPI does not recommend closed schools transition to an online distance model unless the district can ensure each of the considerations below can be met. These include, but are not limited to:

Ensuring all students in the school or district will have equal access to the learning and required materials, including technology.

Ensuring the online learning system can effectively support the district’s different learning and teaching needs, including the ability to provide differentiated instruction as well as one-on-one support for students who need it. Regardless of where the learning is happening, supports identified on a student’s Individualized Education Program must be provided if the district is operating.

Ensuring the requirements of full-day kindergarten are met.

Ensuring students can access the assessments associated with dual credit coursework.

Providing training to staff, students, and parents and guardians on how the system works and what expectations the district has.

The ability to track the attendance of both students and staff.

Ensuring the systems in use are secure and will not allow for the release of protected student or staff information.

The ability to provide school meals.

State law requires school administrators to excuse absences due to student safety concerns as well as absences due to illness, health condition, or medical appointment.

Staff absences are becoming an issue across the state.

June 19 will remain the end of the terminal date unless/until something dramatic happens by the governor. Districts will not need to make up days after June 19.

Districts should wait until they know the extent of their closures before submitting an application for a waiver.

OSPI is legally authorized to continue state apportionment support for school districts that cannot fully provide the required number of school days or instructional hours due to an emergency district-wide or school closure.

More information from OSPI can be located at

From King County Public Health:

Please see guidance below from King County explaining why they are not recommending that schools close at this time:

Public Health is not currently recommending that schools proactively close unless they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member or student.

This guidance may have been confusing for some families and schools because schools bring together large groups of children. School closures have significant negative impacts on our community. We will be providing additional information to schools about how to stay open safely. The considerations we have taken in our decision not to currently recommend routine closure at schools include:

Children are not known to get seriously ill from COVID-19.

Closing schools may not be effective because some children may congregate anyway, at other locations.

Many parents, such as healthcare workers, need to be at work. If these critical workers stay home with children, it causes significant impacts on the healthcare system and other institutions that are essential for our community to function.

If schools close, some children might have to stay home with alternative caregivers, such as elders, who are more vulnerable.

We don’t know how effective children are in spreading this disease.

Some children and staff may be at higher risk for severe illness because of underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system. Public Health advises that those people consult with their healthcare provider to decide the best course of action.

Public Health also respects each individual school’s decisions about closures, postponement of activities, or other social distancing measures – as each school knows the needs of their community best.

Public Health is continually assessing our decision not to require the widespread closure of schools. We are continually evaluating information as it becomes available to better inform our decisions about proactive schools closure.

More information from King County Public Health can be located at

From San Juan County Health and Community Services:

There are currently no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in San Juan County.

We think that if you’re organizing an event or meeting that is bringing together 10 or more people and canceling or rescheduling or having the event remotely doesn’t cause you or others any real problems, well then we think you should do so. That doesn’t mean we’re requiring that, but just that limiting social contact at this stage of the disease’s spread is a pretty darned good idea.

Now is a good time to hunker down. If you have to go somewhere for reasons that are important, then you should do it and feel fine with that decision. But, now is probably a good time to think twice about travel for fun or diversion, especially if you’re heading to areas that are known to have a density of active COVID-19 cases.

The School Closure decision is made by the County Health Officer, a physician with extensive experience in infectious disease and transmission. It will be made based on active confirmed cases in the islands, and indications that there is active transmission of the illness on the local level. Remember, the decision to close school is not taken lightly. Closing schools is a strategy intended not to completely stop the spread, but to slow and limit it.

More information from San Juan County Health and Community Services can be located here:

Recording of the Live Stream Update on the status of COVID-19 in San Juan County was recorded on March 9 and is available at,5838.

From Orcas Island School District:

OISD is working closely with San Juan County Health and Community Services, Education Service District #189, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

We have purchased additional cleaning supplies and have them on hand if needed.

We have implemented standardized cleaning protocols and increased disinfecting of all buildings and buses.

Our District Nurse has visited classrooms to talk with students on how they may remain healthy during this time.

We conducted an all-staff meeting on March 4th “Knowing the Facts” with our District Nurse and Dr. Fleming, and “Cleaning Protocols” with the District’s Facilities Director.

Facilities Department Training was held on March 5, “Developing the Plan for Cleaning Consistency.”

The District has canceled the High School Field Trip to Seattle.

The Japanese Connection Trip has been canceled.

On March 6, we held a 1 p.m. release for on-line training of certificated staff and to allow for the deep cleaning of the buildings and buses by the Facilities Department.

All Student Conferences, March 17,18,&19 will be conducted remotely to limit exposure and to work toward on-line learning if needed.

The District has canceled the middle school basketball game with Darrington.

The District has canceled the high school softball game with Mount Baker.

The previously scheduled “Cell Phones at School?’ School Board meetings with Students at lunchtime, and again at 5 pm with Community, have been canceled.

The School Board will be convening a Special Meeting on March 12 at 5 p.m. in the school library to discuss and possibly adopt Resolution 2020-04, “Reducing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19”.

The health and safety of our students and staff are of the utmost importance to all of us at Orcas Island School District. We will continue to work at the district level to ensure we are planning appropriate precautionary steps while we work through this health and safety challenge.


Eric Webb