'Safe call' -- Parents react to canceled class at Bothell High School over coronavirus concerns

BOTHELL, Wash. - A Washington high school shut down for a day over coronavirus concerns after a staff member went into quarantine. Northshore School District superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid announced Bothell High School would be closed, Thursday "out of an abundance of caution."

In a letter sent to parents Wednesday, Reid said a high school staff member returned to work Monday after a week-long international trip with a family member. The employee told the school their relative became sick on Tuesday and was taken to a hospital to be treated, monitored and quarantined.

While the district waits on results to see if the relative has a connection to the outbreak, classes were canceled to deep clean the school.

"What’s important is at our core we value safety health of student staff and families above all else, that generates decision-making, ability to pause, have authentic conversations about something people are anxious about around the world," said Reid.

“We were a little taken back. At first, the kids were super excited, right? Two in high school, ‘Yay! Tomorrow, no school.’ And then the realization of what that actually meant kind of set in,” said Chelsea Doyle, a parent with two students at the high school.

Some parents and staff said with so much unknown about the infection, closing the high school was a safe call.

“Now, we’re talking about this, potentially, in our hometown,” said Doyle.

“We’re all human and we want to feel that we’re being protected. And by the district making the decision to close Bothell to get everything cleaned out and wiped down and everything they’re doing, I highly praise the superintendent for doing that,” said Jasha Feirman, who is contracted to the high school through Pro Care Therapies to provide behavioral support and analysis for a student with autism.

Reid said their employee is not sick, but will be quarantined at home and tested for the infection just in case. She also said they’re waiting to hear test results from the relative to see if there’s a connection to the outbreak.

“I think there is fear and anxiety all across the globe, saw the market go deeper than it’s been in quite some time. News cycle with more data saying this particular disease is more serious,” said Reid. “There is anxiety, and what people want to know is we have a plan being thoughtful going to take care of their children and families.”

The Washington state Department of Health said it doesn’t believe there is a threat of cornonavirus transmission to students, staff or the public at this time. Though the state is not advising schools to close at this time, officials said they respect the district's decision.

“We are confident that the superintendent made this decision after considering the specific facts of the situation, and knowing the community concerns better than anyone. In the future, our hope is that the ability to do lab testing at the state level will shorten the turnaround time for COVID-19 tests, and make decisions like this a lot easier,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman wrote in a statement.

Though much is still unknown about the virus, some parents said they believe the safety of their children is in capable hands.

“I know and I trust that our leadership in our district will make the right decisions. I love that they are in contact with experts in our area,” said Doyle. “I appreciate that they had taken all that into consideration and still felt like this is the best way to go. And as a parent of two kids at that school, I appreciate that that’s what’s happening right now.”

The district is contacting all students and staff who may have been in contact with the employee. Thursday evening the district will announce if the school will be closed again on Friday.