By TANVI BARGAJE and CAITLYN L.J. KIM
IUSD officials are developing emergency measures to be implemented in the event of an outbreak of coronavirus in the local Irvine area.
IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker raised the possibility of switching the district’s students to Emergency Distance Learning (EDL), or online learning if an emergency school shutdown were to occur due to the outbreak of COVID-19, more commonly known as the 2019-2020 novel coronavirus, in an email sent to members of the district on February 27. A follow-up email providing more updated information was released on March 10.
“Our planning efforts are geared toward a wide range of options for safely serving students that could include Blended and/or online learning in the event of an emergency,” Walker said in his email. “IUSD will continue to develop plans, as part of our normal preparedness efforts, and our staff will account for any new developments related to COVID-19.”
UHS administration has also continued to develop their response to a potential district-wide shutdown, convening a meeting with Principal Kevin Astor, the vice principals, and department heads in attendance to discuss the school’s EDL plan on March 11.
Any official news regarding a switch to EDL or the likelihood of a district shutdown will come through a district-wide announcement. More information will be published through the district website on Monday, which can be found at https://iusd.org/covid-19-resource-page.
“We are keeping the possible effects of COVID-19 in the back of our minds, along with planning for the possibility of moving classes online though Emergency Distance Learning. EDL is the procedure for all emergency situations, not just limited to COVID-19,” Assistant Principal Matt Pate said.
Orange County health officials had declared the coronavirus a health emergency on March 10. The WHO declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic on March 11, signifying that a global outbreak of the disease had occurred.
According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), schools should determine if, when, and for how long childcare programs or schools may need to be dismissed in the case of a community outbreak.
If schools are dismissed they are advised to temporarily cancel extracurricular group activities and large events, discourage students and staff from gathering or socializing anywhere, ensure continuity of education, ensure continuity of meal programs, and consider alternatives for providing essential medical and social services for students.
The Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) requires that anyone who has been to China in the last fourteen days be quarantined and monitored by public health officials, including students- who should be excused from school during that time.
There are two active cases of coronavirus in Orange County, including three possible cases that are undergoing investigation according to Santa Ana public health officials. In California there have been 177 cases of coronavirus, with three deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, while in the U.S. there have been a total of 1,209 cases and thirty-seven deaths reported by local and state agencies. Neighboring college UC Irvine has made the switch to online classes, and has recommended that its staff work from home if possible.
President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office on March 11, announcing the government would temporarily suspend travel to Europe, and provide financial support for small businesses and individuals affected by the virus.
IUSD health guidelines recommend that students should stay home when they are sick, cover their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, wash their hands when necessary, and avoid people who are already sick.
Astor stressed that the administration did not want to promote panic or speculation among the student body.
“It is one of those tough situations,” Astor said.