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Shawnee Schools start Spring Break early amid COVID-19 concerns, activities suspended

Elisabeth Slay

Due to health concerns involving the coronavirus virus (COVID-19) Shawnee Public Schools suspended classes and activities Friday, March 13, giving students an early start to Spring Break and the district time to begin a deep cleaning process of all school sites and vehicles.

According to a statement released Thursday by Superintendent April Grace, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shawnee, but the district is following guidelines set by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) to prevent the virus from spreading and to begin needed precautions to sanitize school sites and vehicles.

In her statement, Grace said classes and activities are suspended until Sunday, March 22 and at this point in time the district plans for classes to resume Monday, March 23.

Along with Shawnee, McLoud and Earlsboro sporting events, practices and other school-related activities are canceled until further notice.

In addition to deep cleaning and safe health practices, Grace said the district has informed students, parents, faculty and staff on the necessary precautions they need to make to prevent the spread of the coronavirus if they travel for Spring Break next week.

In a statement released to students and staff Tuesday, Grace informed the district on the safety protocols the Pottawatomie County Health Department and other health organizations has regarding travel.

If people travel, Grace said they should avoid countries with a high percentage of COVID-19 cases, self-quarantine for 14 days if they come in contact with the virus and monitor their symptoms and get tested if they feel they could have contracted it.

According to SPS Public Information Officer Cherity Pennington, the district also released letters informing teachers to prepare online course work for students in the event of confirmed cases or a district-wide closure due to the COVID-19.

Grace said the district will continue monitoring the situation and following guidelines from county, state and national health organizations.

Gordon Copper Technology Center classes will continue on Friday, March 13, but school officials said students who wish to stay home due to health concerns involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be excused.

While Shawnee closed its schools early for Spring Break, Gordon Cooper Technology Center (GCTC) planned to have class Friday, March 13, but those who miss school would be excused.

According to Communications and Marketing Coordinator Matt Stephens, GCTC is deep cleaning public facilities and taking necessary precautions to prevent the contraction or the spread of COVID-19.

Stephens said GCTC has suspended out-of-state travel for students and staff, suspended clinical learning until things improve and upon their return from Spring Break, students and staff will be required to go through some sort of screening process to make sure those who have traveled to high risk places take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Stephens said GCTC will continue to monitor the situation and update the community as new information is released.

Similar to GCTC, Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS) are also doing their best to maintain and remain updated on guidelines and news involving COVID-19.

According to Superintendent Tom Wilsie, like other schools, TPS has been in constant contact with local and national health organizations on confirmed COVID-19 cases, safety protocols and other precautions needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

As their Spring Break approaches, TPS is advising students to avoid unnecessary travel, monitor symptoms if they've come in contact with the virus, wash hands as much as possible and cover mouths when coughing or sneezing.

Wilsie said if students and teachers do travel they need to communicate that to their school site and keep the district updated on their status.

Like other schools in the area, TPS is also deep cleaning their sites and vehicles preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other virus such as the flu.

Wilsie said because COVID-19 is a new virus there are challenges to containing it, but Tecumseh will continue to work with health officials and following any updated guidelines and information as it becomes available.

In addition to Tecumseh, Shawnee and GCTC, districts including Bethel, McLoud, Earlsboro and other schools in the county have sent out letters or information to students and parents about the necessary safety measures needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

All districts have promised to monitor the situation in the coming weeks and keep their communities updated as new information becomes available.