Menlo School is closed for the rest of the week because a staff member interacted with a relative who tested positive on Tuesday, March 3, for the novel coronavirus.
The private Atherton school is closed through the weekend as officials "deep clean" the entire campus, Head of School Than Healy wrote in an email to parents on Tuesday. The respiratory disease, also known as COVID-19, has infected more than 90,000 people globally.
"During the closure, we will continue to work with the health departments and will gain a better understanding of our employee's situation," he said. "We know this news may cause understandable concern. While it is not our intent to cause undue alarm or disruption to our students' learning, the School has decided to act conservatively and in the best interest of our community members in announcing this closure."
School officials currently do not know the health status of the employee and don't have an estimated time of the employee's return, said Alex Perez, the school's director of communications in a Thursday email to The Almanac. The employee is a staff member who doesn’t have contact with students, he noted.
All school-related activities will be canceled, including classes, athletics, arts, clubs and planned field trips, the email to parents states.
School officials said they would communicate with parents again by early evening on Wednesday, March 4, to provide any updates.
Meanwhile, Woodside Priory School officials emailed parents on Wednesday that, as a precaution, they have canceled the Portola Valley school's upcoming March 16 to 20 service week, said Kelly Sargent, director of communications. The week was set to include student visits to a variety of destinations such as Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto, Second Harvest Food Bank and San Carlos Adult Day Services. It also included two service trips to Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Because of international air travel uncertainty, the school is opting to keep both the girls and boys dormitories open for Easter break – April 6 to 13 – to give boarding students the option to remain on campus if they choose not to travel.
"Normally the dormitories close for the breaks and all boarding students are required to leave the dorms," she explained. "The resident students are allowed to leave for Easter Break if they would like to, the school is just offering another option if they would like to stay."
Woodside Priory's spring musical, "We Will Rock You: School Edition," will be staged as planned this week, said John Sugden, head of the Performing Arts Department. The show kicks off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 5.
There are two confirmed cases of the coronavirus in San Mateo County as of Wednesday, March 4, according to San Mateo County Health, the county's health department, website. There are 11 confirmed cases of the virus in neighboring Santa Clara county.
Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a press conference on Tuesday that the best current evidence shows that persons at higher risk of coronavirus infection are those ages 50 and older.
People with underlying medical conditions are also at greater risk. These include: cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung conditions, cancer and compromised immune systems. People with these conditions should avoid large gatherings such as concerts, parades and sporting events. Organizations serving seniors are recommended to cancel large gatherings, such as bingo games and movie screenings, and to clean all surfaces with disinfectants including phones, keyboards, tablets and door handles.
The recommendations do not include avoiding office environments or grocery stores where people do not typically gather tightly together.
Menlo-Atherton High School Principal Simone Rick-Kennel emailed parents Wednesday morning to say that the school's high school district, the Sequoia Union High School District, will take guidance from the health department, San Mateo County Health, and San Mateo County Office of Education on how to proceed with future decisions on whether to stay open.
In a Wednesday morning email, Menlo Park City School District Superintendent Erik Burmeister told families there is no reason for concern that the situation at Menlo School puts district students or staff at increased risk. He noted that the decision to close Menlo School was "discretionary" and made "out of an abundance of caution." There are currently no known cases of COVID-19 at Menlo School, he said.
Burmeister said that "during this time of heightened sensitivity," the district has slightly increased its "stay at home" symptom standards.
"Any time your child exhibits even mild cold/flu-like symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat and/or respiratory symptoms (such as shortness of breath, sneezing, etc.), they should stay home. Fever need not be present to keep your child at home," he explained.