March 13, 9:00 AM
I will begin this message to staff and parents with two extremely important comments. First, the health and safety of students, their families, and staff is our top priority. We take this responsibility very seriously. Second, many concerns, perhaps fears, have surfaced regarding COVID-19. I understand and share many of the same concerns. Please know we will communicate effectively with factual information, respond to the latest developments and safety procedures regarding COVID-19, and work together as a school community to ensure the safety and well-being of all in our school community.
The Auburn-Washburn School District is committed to keeping you informed with updated information regarding the local status of COVID-19 as well as sharing the expert advice from the Shawnee County Health Department Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This email is labeled COVID-19 Update #1 with a date and time sent. The next email update will be labeled COVID-19 Update #2 with a date and time sent. Due to the rapid pace of news regarding COVID-19, a daily email update will be sent to Auburn-Washburn staff and parents. Email communication will be the primary method of communication but we will also post all communications regarding COVID-19 on the district website under the newly-created link, COVID-19.
The Shawnee County Health Department will provide expert advice to Shawnee County school districts regarding school closures. The Auburn-Washburn School District will follow their advice and respond accordingly. As of the time this COVID-19 Update #1 is being sent, school will be in session with students on Monday, March 16. That said; however, it is important for families to make contingency plans now to be in position to respond appropriately if advice provided from the Health Department is that schools must be closed for a period of time at some point in the future. Again, we will send a daily update with the latest information to keep all informed. It is extremely uncommon to be placed in a situation to plan day by day, but due to how information about COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, that is the reality of our situation.
It is important to acknowledge the fact that we are on Spring Break this week, and as with every year a large number of families, students, and staff will have traveled out of state or even out of the country for vacation. Auburn-Washburn has remained in communication with the Shawnee County Health Department this week to prepare ourselves and manage concerns about the health of students, families, and staff who will be returning to schools after Spring Break travel. The Shawnee County Health Department is actively evaluating guidance from both the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students who have traveled abroad to a location currently with a Level 2 or 3 Health Alert (China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Japan) over Spring Break are being asked to contact the Shawnee County Health Department at (785) 806-6297 and may be required to adhere to a 14-day quarantine; abstaining from school attendance and confined to home for the duration of that time period. A school district does not have authority to mandate a quarantine but we can stress the importance to students, families, and staff to follow this recommendation from the Shawnee County Health Department to best ensure safety for all. Additionally, if you or someone you know feels sick or has the following symptoms: mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, call ahead before going to a doctor’s office/emergency room, tell the doctor about recent travel, avoid contact with others, and do not travel while sick.
In addition to the information above concerning quarantines, all of us need to be reminded of the following illness prevention strategies, which are recommended by the Shawnee County Health Department:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
We will closely monitor the health and wellbeing of each student when school is in session. If a student shows signs of illness, the student will visit the school nurse for evaluation. Communication from school to home will be critically important as we continue to navigate through the coming days.
I will close by restating our top priority is the health and safety of our students, families, and staff. We will continue to follow the lead of the Shawnee County Health Department. We will also continue giving all schools and school buses a thorough cleaning after school hours using recommended cleansers to ensure safe learning environments and transportation for students and staff. COVID-19 has our full attention as we proceed through the remaining days of the 2019-20 school year.
Dr. Scott McWilliams
Superintendent of Schools