SEATTLE (AP) — A suburban school district north of Seattle was closed Tuesday for training on conducting remote lessons in the event of prolonged school closures due to virus outbreak and a private school said it will conduct classes online only until the end of March.
The schools took the steps after researchers said the virus that causes the disease called COVID-19 may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state, and experts said more cases will probably be reported soon.
Six people have died from the disease in Washington state, all at a hospital in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Several of the deaths were tied to a long-term care facility in the same suburb, Life Care Center of Kirkland, where dozens of residents were sickened. Of the new cases announced in King County Monday, three were connected to the facility, including two who died.
The Eastside Prep private school in Kirkland said it would have students stay home and do online classes because of virus concerns. The school for grades 5 through 12 of nearly 500 students said on its website it had no known cases or suspected cases connected to the campus, but “we do not feel it is prudent to wait until there is a known case to take action.” The school said it would conduct online classes through March 27.
Meanwhile the Northshore School District, which has about 22,000 students just north of Seattle, was closed Tuesday so its teachers could also get ready to teach remotely if the need arises. Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a letter to students’ families that the district was also making plans to help students who don’t have computers or internet access at home.
Seattle Public Schools has so far said it will not close, but is monitoring the situation.
Local and state health officials have not recommended school closures or cancellation of activities but said they respect the decisions of local school leaders.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington on Sunday said they had evidence the virus may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks undetected. If true, that could mean that there are hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the area.