LYNNWOOD — As one school district shutters amid the coronavirus outbreak, students and parents across the county are calling on administrators in other districts to do the same.
All schools in the Northshore School District were closed Thursday for up to 14 days because of COVID-19 cases and concerns. Online learning for students will begin Monday. As of Thursday, online petitions to close schools in the Everett, Edmonds and Mukilteo school districts had more than 13,000 signatures.
Already this week, several schools in the county have closed for a day following confirmed COVID-19 cases, including at Mariner and Jackson high schools.
Mariner High School was closed again Friday after a student’s family member tested positive for COVID-19, the Mukilteo School District said in an email to staff and families Thursday night. Mariner was closed Monday after the parent of a student was diagnosed with coronavirus. The parent whose death was reported Monday is the only virus fatality in Snohomish County. The district did not say if the new case was a family member of the same student. The Mariner student isn’t showing any symptoms and is under quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Snohomish Health District is urging people to avoid large groups but stopped short of advising that all the schools close.
The three districts, which serve a combined 55,000 students, are staying open — for now.
“We understand the concerns people have as there is a lot of misinformation and rumors about the coronavirus,” Everett School District spokeswoman Kathy Reeves said in an email.
Everett administrators are taking the matter seriously and providing extra cleaning, she said.
In Edmonds, administrators are meeting daily to weigh their options, which include a possible at-home learning plan and custodial staff are continuing to clean buildings multiple times each day, district spokeswoman Harmony Weinberg said.
“This is unprecedented for us, and I’d say all districts,” she said. “We’re trying to do this calmly and focus on keeping all of our students safe and educating them.”
On the petitions’ web pages, parents and students expressed concerns about sending kids to school when they have grandparents or infant children living at home.
The districts say they are following the lead of local health officials, and the health district says closing schools is up to school administrators.
Gov. Jay Inslee is also deferring the decision to close schools to administrators, he said during a news conference Thursday. That could change.
“For those who have wondered why I have not made that decision today it is because we are still evaluating the efficacy of that,” he said. “We’re also weighing this against the needs for childcare. It is profoundly a challenge for families already.”
In the meantime, absences are being excused for Edmonds, Everett and Mukilteo students whose parents are keeping them at home.
“Every family has their individual needs and has to address those,” Weinberg said.
Attendance in the Edmonds School District has been normal, she said.
Across Everett schools, 8% to 33% of students were absent Thursday, according to district numbers. On an average day, that number is 3% to 9%.
School administrators in Everett and Edmonds say an online curriculum would create an equity issue. Each district has students who don’t have the required technology.
Another concern is that students who rely on school lunches could go without the meals for an extended period of time.
If districts decide to close, any missed school days can be waived, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The state requires a 180-day school year, but allows waivers under some circumstances.
In Mukilteo, the district is closing schools, but administrators are cancelling all after-school activities, district spokeswoman Diane Bradford said Thursday.
Similarly, the Edmonds School District cancelled the Southeast Quad Choral Concert scheduled for Thursday night at Mountlake Terrace High School.
All community events are being reconsidered because they would “bring in our vulnerable population,” Weinberg said.
At Edmonds Community College, all large campus events are cancelled until further notice, the school announced Thursday.
Additionally, the Stanwood-Camano School District is cancelling all extra-curricular performances, evening events, field trips and sports competitions.
Herald reporter Andrea Brown and the AP contributed to this story.