Menlo College and Menlo School are joining the growing list of local schools to close their campuses and move classes to online instruction as more cases of the novel coronavirus crop up in the Bay Area. This follows the World Health Organization (WHO)'s declaration on Wednesday, March 11, that the outbreak of the respiratory illness, known as COVID-19, is a pandemic.
Beginning Wednesday, March 18, all classes will move to online instruction, and classes will be canceled on Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, officials at Menlo College in Atherton told students in a Wednesday email. The school is also canceling, or modifying, large events. Scheduled games will continue as planned, but without spectators with the exception of Menlo College students in-residence, and staff and faculty.
"The consensus of public health experts is that the coronavirus will continue to be spread in communities across the nation, a reality that has driven many other colleges and universities to move towards online only instruction as well, currently affecting more than 500,000 students in this country alone," said Angela Schmiede, chair of the school's pandemic planning team. "Just here in the Bay Area, at least twelve other colleges and universities have also suspended in-person classes at this time."
Menlo School in Atherton also announced in the early morning hours on Thursday, March 12, that it is closing its campus effective immediately. The closure of the school, which serves students in grades six through 12, will run at least through the end of spring break on April 13.
At Menlo College, students are on spring break this week. Some are staying in the dorms on campus, while others returned home for the break. School officials have asked students not on campus to not return after spring break, while they say that students still living on campus who are unable to live elsewhere until classes resume will be allowed to stay.
Alyssa Gomez, a sophomore studying human resources at Menlo College, is staying with her family in Southern California and said the shutdown is a "lot to handle all at once." She worries about her car, which she left in the Bay Area, and she's concerned she'll lose her dog-walking clients who may think she's unreliable since she has to cancel upcoming walks.
"Taking precautions like that is important, but I think they (administrators) should have done it sooner," she said, noting she had to cancel her flight back to the Bay Area last minute. "I have never had an online class before and the teachers don't necessarily know how to use the (online) program. I'm nervous about it."
Other school closures:
• Sacred Heart Schools: The private Atherton school announced Wednesday that beginning on Monday, the school will move to institute online instruction and tentatively plans to reopen on April 14.
• Woodside Priory, St. Raymond and Nativity schools: Three local Archdiocese of San Francisco schools announced this week they would close for two weeks due to the virus threat. The announcement followed the confirmation that a student at one of the archdiocese's San Francisco schools tested positive for COVID-19.
There are more than 125,000 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide as of Thursday morning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed 17 cases of the virus in the county as of Thursday morning, according to the San Mateo County health department's website. There have been 48 cases of the virus confirmed in nearby Santa Clara County as of Thursday morning, according to the county's health department website.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Online here.