In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, local schools, including the Oak Park Unified School District, are shutting down. OPUSD, as of March 12, will shut down for the week of March 16.
This is in response to the course of COVID-19: not including those aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, California has now seen at least 247 cases, and the U.S. has seen a death toll of 50, as of March 14. One of those who died was a CA resident. Ventura County has 4 presumptive positive cases, and 1 CDC confirmed case. Ventura County has declared a state of emergency. COVID-19 is currently a pandemic according to the World Health Organization.
All extracurricular activities and field trips have been canceled or postponed, from the musical “Chicago,” to spring sports.
OPUSD advises everyone to take precautionary sanitary measures such as washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or if you cannot wash your hands at the time, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers that have at least 60% alcohol are the most effective.
In addition, people should avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with sick people, stay home when sick, cover their coughs and sneezes, disinfect commonly used surfaces, have severe symptoms checked out by a medical health professional and get vaccinated for the flu.
On March 4, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in CA. According to Newsom, this declaration was a result of one CA resident dying from the novel Coronavirus and the fact that this individual went on a cruise in mid-February and could have infected many others in the process. Since then, he has also announced that schools shutting down is a matter of when, not if.
“[We have] entered into this next phase that has required me, under the circumstances, to advance a proclamation of a state of emergency in the state of California. This is not something that I say hyperbolically, and shouldn’t be reported as such. It would be incredibly misleading,” Newsom said in a press conference on March 4. “The proclamation is to serve to help advance our resources, to loosen up our regulatory environment, to provide some clarity in terms of jurisdiction and oversight capacity.”
During the current week of closure, there will be no new work assigned for students. However, if the closure extends, teachers may begin delivering enrichment online.
Ventura County is currently asking schools to “review, update and implement” their emergency operation plans which focus on infectious diseases while working with local health departments. The county notes that any effective plan or response will play on everyday activities.
Ventura County is also encouraging schools to “develop information-sharing systems with partners, monitor absenteeism, establish procedures for students and staff who are sick at school, perform routine environmental cleaning and create communications plans for use with the school community.”
The district is yet to release a detailed overview of how a prolonged closure may affect summer school and AP testing.
According to OPHS Principal Kevin Buchanan, teachers will be paid regardless of whether or not the school shuts down.
“We’re working with a lot of agencies, [and] with a lot of information. [We’re] using the best knowledge we can find through the people who really know how to respond to this. We’re not making any decision in isolation. We’re working as a community and monitoring the situation hourly,” Buchanan said.