This article was updated at 3:18pm on 3/13/2020 with new information about school building hours.
With the first cases of confirmed coronavirus appearing in the state, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered all Michigan schools, public and private, to close until April 6. The order, which came late in the evening on March 12, was immediately put into effect by seemingly all schools in the Kent Intermediate School District.
That meant parents who were told yesterday that KISD schools would remain open woke up to unexpected closing alerts. The abrupt turnabout came as public health officials announced three people in Kent County tested positive for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Although children are not at high risk for serious illness, schools bring together large groups of people which could lead to the spread of the virus.
“When the announcement was made that cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the area, the decision to close was made out of an abundance of caution,” says Nate Fowler, director of curriculum, assessment and instruction at Lowell Area Schools.
All Lowell Area Schools buildings will be open on March 13 for parents and students to collect any items they will need during the extended closure. Office staff will also be available to return any medication that has been stored at the building. The administration building will be open until 4pm, elementary schools will be open until 5pm and the middle and high schools will be open until 5:30pm.
St. Patrick School principal Scott Czarnopys knows parents have varied – and strong – opinions about schools closing but says administrators are relying on the expertise of public health officials. “We are not infectious disease experts, and we look to the guidance from those [who are] to make the safest decisions possible for our children and community,” he says.
While the situation remains fluid, Fowler says there are no plans right now to change the district’s spring break which is scheduled for the week of April 6. “Our current plan is to resume classes on April 13,” he explains.
Meanwhile, Czarnopys says teachers at St. Patrick School will be working over the weekend to prepare lesson plans for students to complete at home. Those will be available for pick-up next week and may be supplemented with additional electronic materials and lessons.
Watch Lowell’s First Look for continuing coverage of how the coronavirus is affecting the community. While many organizations have cancelled events, most businesses are open as usual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage those at increased risk for severe illness to consider staying home during a minimal or moderate outbreak of COVID-19. Others who have no symptoms and do not believe they have been exposed to the virus may continue with regular activities but should practice social distancing which the agency defines as staying six feet away from others if possible.