03.21.20 Coronavirus News: Middleton district visitor may have been contagious

An Ada County resident who visited Middleton Middle School on March 11 and 12 has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Southwest District Health.

The person may have been contagious during the visit and the health district is working to identify and contact anyone who had close contact with the patient.

“If you are not contacted, there is no reason for you to have elevated concern,” the health district wrote in a letter. “COVID-19 is not an illness that is spread through brief, casual contact.”

Superintendent Sherawn Reberry declined to specify whether the person is a staff member, parent or a visitor to the school. As of Saturday afternoon, Reberry said she had not heard from any parents or students who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

“We recognize the significant impact this news could mean to our community,” Reberry wrote in a letter to parents and staff. “Our priority is to provide an excellent education in a safe and healthy  environment.”

The letter says that custodial staff will deep-clean the buildings next week, following federal guidelines. The district plans to be out of school through at least March 30, possibly longer.

On Saturday, Idaho reported 42 total cases of coronavirus, up 11 cases from the day before. The Saturday count includes:

  • Blaine County: 21 cases.
  • Ada County: 11 cases.
  • Kootenai County: 3 cases.
  • Bingham County: 2 cases.
  • Teton County: 2 cases.
  • Canyon County: 1 case.
  • Madison County: 1 case.
  • Twin Falls County: 1 case.

West Ada to extend closure

Idaho’s largest school district will extend its coronavirus closure for at least one more week, while it works on an online learning plan.

The West Ada School District will remain closed through April 3, the district said on its website.

“A lengthy period of school closure is a real possibility,” West Ada said in its letter to parents.

District officials said they are refining a digital learning plan, and will provide details after the district’s spring break, which runs next week. District officials acknowledged the logistical challenges to making the shift to online learning.

“According to U.S. Census Data, approximately 9 percent of homes in West Ada don’t have access to the Internet, and there is not a database of which homes these are,” the district said. “Five hundred and seventeen West Ada students are homeless. More than 9,000 live below the poverty line. West Ada could offer computers to anyone who requests one or picks one up at school, but even doing so doesn’t ensure that all students will get a computer and be able to access it. The school district could provide Internet access in school parking lots, but without bus service, there is no guarantee that every student would be able to get to school to access the Internet.”

High school seniors who are on track to graduate will receive their diplomas, the district said, but it’s unclear that the high schools will be able to hold commencement ceremonies this spring at Boise State University. Kindergarten registration will be rescheduled once Central District Health “recommends that group gatherings are again allowable.”

Free breakfast and lunch service began Friday at seven West Ada schools: Chief Joseph Elementary School, Frontier Elementary School, Lewis and Clark Middle School, Meridian Middle School, Renaissance High School, Spalding Elementary School and Ustick Elementary School. The meals are available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and are designed for pickup, in school bus lanes or in front of school. Children must be present to pick up the meals, which will still be available during spring break.

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.

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