Public, private schools in Routt County announce closures due to coronavirus
Other Routt County schools announce closures
This story was updated at 7:09 p.m. Friday, March 13.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs School District will close all of its schools for the next two weeks, Superintendent Brad Meeks announced at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 13.
South Routt School District, Emerald Mountain School, Steamboat Mountain School and Mountain Village Montessori Charter School are also closing for the next two weeks.
The Hayden School District, which operates on a four-day week, is on spring break next week. At this time, Superintendent Christy Sinner said the plan is to “stay the course” and have students return March 23. However, she and members of the school board will continue to re-evaluate over the next week.
“The situation is fluid and moving fast,” Sinner said.
At South Routt and Steamboat Mountain School, the closure is actually only for next week, as the following week is their spring break.
The decisions come in the wake of mass cancellations and closures across the county, state and country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least 30 other public school districts in Colorado have announced closures during the same approximate dates. In Washington, the governor issued a closure order for public school districts across the entire state.
On Thursday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an order that mandated schools close only if they have confirmed cases of COVID-19. None of the schools or districts in Routt County have any cases reported among students, staff or family members.
Two cases of the novel coronavirus in out-of-state visitors were confirmed in Routt County on Friday, March 13.
“After thoughtful discussion, the board of education and I determined that our district will close our schools in an effort to keep our entire community healthy,” Meeks said in a news release.
Because it’s an evolving situation, Meeks said district leaders will evaluate whether or not the timeline will need to be extended.
“We will be holding drop-in days where students and staff can come into the buildings to collect personal items if needed,” Meeks said. “We will do a follow-up communication on when those days will be.”
It was a difficult decision to close schools for two weeks, Meeks said.
“We are looking at it as a proactive measure to help reduce the spread of the virus,” Meeks said. “Schools are big gathering places, not only for our young people, but for the whole community. We want to be proactive. We are not going to stop it, but maybe we can help slow things down. We will take a look in a couple weeks, and see if that helps at all — and keep the community as healthy as possible.”
Meeks said he and the board made the decision to close now as a preventative measure rather than wait for a COVID-19 case to close.
The district has already been preparing for online learning, and staff will be continuing those plans Monday. The district is also looking at providing grab-and-go lunches and ensuring that kids with special needs are being served.
In terms of faculty and staff, some will be working at the schools, some working from home and some will be on an on-call status.
“We are not planning on people losing any type of compensation,” Meeks said.
Watching other districts close across the state has played a role in his and the board’s decision, Meeks said. He’s also been in communication with state education officials and other superintendents.
“We are all trying to work together,” Meeks said. “Nobody has all the answers.”
South Routt schools
South Routt School District Superintendent Rim Watson said staff will be working remotely next week.
“The guidance for teachers is to create lessons for students daily,” Watson said.
“We are going to honor social distancing initiatives in order to be very responsive and make sure we help flatten the curve as far as the rate of infection,” Watson added.
The following week is spring break for Soroco, so as of now, schools are only closed for four days, because South Routt operates on a four-day week.
At Emerald Mountain School, Head of School Samantha Coyne Donnel wrote the following in a letter to parents: “While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 within the EMS community, we are aware that Routt County has announced its first two presumptive positive cases. We take our students’ and families’ health seriously, and it is important for us to consider the health and safety of the local and global community during this pandemic. As an Emerald parent, I know that this news will be disappointing for our children, and I can imagine how the disruption to their daily routines may be quite unsettling and difficult to understand.”
She included resources to assist with the disruption and said the school was following suit with Steamboat schools and planning to move to remote learning.
Steamboat Mountain School Business Manager Andy Weynand said the school is following the lead set by other districts and closing to help protect the community.
Mountain Village Montessori Head of School Michael Girodo said the charter school is working in collaboration with the Steamboat Springs School District.
We want to “do our part in fighting the spread of this virus,” Girodo said. “We know this will be a challenge and hardship for our community, and we’ll do everything we can to support our students and families.”
- All school-related activities and events scheduled during the closure will be canceled. The Colorado High School Activities Association has suspended all spring sports, and activities until April 6 and Steamboat Springs Middle School sports will also be suspended aligned with CHSAA’s timeline.
- The district is awaiting guidance from the Colorado Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on providing breakfast and lunch during the closure. More information on this will be released at a later date.
- Only Steamboat Springs School District personnel will be allowed in district buildings during the closure. Staff will be receiving a separate communication from the district regarding their responsibilities during this closure period.
- All school buildings will continue to be cleaned and sanitized.
Source: Steamboat Springs School District
More information about individual schools and their schedules can be found on their respective websites.
Before immediately heading to the hospital, people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 have several resources, including:
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing a phone line to answer questions from the public about COVID-19. Call CO-Help at 303-389-1687 or 877-462-2911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for answers in English and Spanish, Mandarin and more.
- UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center offers Ask-A-Nurse, a 24/7 call line staffed by registered nurses who can assess symptoms and provide advice on seeking care. In Routt County, Ask-A-Nurse can be reached by calling 970-871-7878.
- Virtual Visits can be done from the comfort of your home and only require a computer or tablet with a working webcam, speakers and microphone, or a smartphone.
- If patients are experiencing severe symptoms or having difficulty breathing, they should visit the hospital’s emergency department.
Take precautions in everyday life:
- Frequently and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home if you’re sick and keep your children home if they are sick.
- Clean surfaces in your home and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
- Be calm but be prepared.
- Employees at businesses and customers are required to wear a mask, according to a statewide public health order.
- Limit distance between non-household members to 6 feet when indoors and outdoors.
- The maximum group size for indoor activities is 10.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.