Hamilton County Schools Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
March 13, 2020
The coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, was declared a pandemic on March 11 by the World Health Organization. The first case was detected in Wuhan, China, and has transcended to many European and Asian countries. It was first confirmed in the United States in early January in the state of Washington, but has spread to many states since then. The amount of Coronavirus victims in the U.S. has soared to over one thousand cases, having been found in around 44 states. Tennessee is among the states affected, with 26 confirmed cases as of March 13. Hamilton County announced that a case was confirmed that same day.
“I honestly feel scared because my teachers said they’ve never seen anything like this before. Usually schools do anything and everything to keep us in school, and the fact that we have two weeks off is worrying,” stated Junior Karen Castillo.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee declared a state of emergency on March 12; his declaration included additional funding and the deregulation of assistance for affected areas. His state of emergency led the Hamilton County Department of Education to take serious measures in regards to preventing the widely-spread virus from reaching students and faculty after one case was confirmed in the county today, March 13.
The Department of Education has taken precautionary measures in case of an emergency, and, as a result, have decided to cancel all schools in the district.
Beginning March 16 through 20, students are confirmed to be out of school; however, it may be extended to the 27, although it is not official. The district is working closely with the Hamilton County Board of Education to move spring break to the week of March 23 through March 27.
Spring break was originally scheduled for April 3 through 10, but according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, spring break will be voted on to be rescheduled by the board on Monday, March 16. If this plan takes effect, families who have already planned vacation trips for the month of April will be excused from absences throughout the week. As of now, they anticipate that students will not come back to school until March 3o. This also means that school trips and sporting events will be cancelled until then.
“I understand a lot of the underclassmen are excited to be missing school, but I’m a little worried as a senior since I’m taking on online class for statistics and can’t take my required tests,” stated Senior Patrick Quinn. “Also, it is my last season that I can play soccer, and missing these two school weeks is going to cause us to miss a large amount of our season, and may even cause it to be completely cancelled. Needless to say, I’m not the happiest camper.”
District administrators met with school principals Thursday, March 12, to discuss how learning will go about while school is out. Principal Phil Iannarone has worked with Central’s faculty to create a smooth transition for the upcoming week.
Central High has given students the opportunity to choose between paper and online work. Teachers were given instructions to hand out packets of work for students who chose physical copies after a survey was conducted that allowed students to select their preferred method of learning.
Packets for all core English and mathematics were readily available for students in the cafeteria during all three lunches; teachers are encouraged to use Canvas or Google Classroom to connect with students as well. Many educators have turned to using the app Remind to let students know about upcoming assignments.
The school will be opened March 16 to 20 only for students or parents concerned about getting assignments. Staff emails can be accessed at any time through the directory of the school’s website for means of communication.
The district works closely with the local Health Department, the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The leadership team monitors updates on the coronavirus and continues to plan for future outbreaks in an effort to maintain a safe environment for Hamilton County citizens.
With that being said, there are no exceptions to promoting the general rules of cleanliness such as: washing one’s hands for 20 seconds, avoiding contact with those who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and sanitizing commonly used surfaces.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the disease is derived from animals, but can easily spread to people. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when people sneeze, cough, or even exhale. Affected individuals are able to pass it on to the next person through bodily fluids. One person is able to infect two to three people; therefore, it is important to avoid contact with anyone who is sick. The virus seems to survive for many hours on commonly contacted surfaces such as tables and door handles, however, frequently disinfecting them will prevent the virus from spreading even more.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke advised the community to stay in social isolation, which he detailed in his safety update email. Elders and those with respiratory problems are likely to have more severe symptoms. Although fatalities are low among those infected, it is still important to keep away from those who are ill.