Work continues on ‘what if’ plan for Bainbridge schools

Officials with the Bainbridge Island School District have been working on “what if” plans for the island’s public schools as the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues in Washington state.

District Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen sent an email message to the Bainbridge school community late Monday outlining the school district’s efforts.

“Earlier today, our district leadership team participated in a conference call with area school district superintendents, as well as a conference call with the Kitsap County Health Officer (Dr. Susan Turner). We also listened to updates from a press conference held by Public Health — Seattle & King County,” Bang-Knudsen wrote.

“We are working hard to stay up to date with the news, while also creating ‘what if’ plans for our district,” he said, and added that school officials are working closely with the Kitsap Public Health District, the city of Bainbridge Island, and other school districts in the area “to address this ever-changing issue.”

In an FAQ sheet distributed by the school district, officials noted that parents can keep their children home from school if “they believe is in the best interest of their students and families.”

The information sheet added that authorities in Seattle and King County “are not recommending widespread school closures or cancellation of activities at schools.”

A poster campaign to remind and encourage students and staff to follow good hygiene practices was launched in district schools Tuesday, March 3 by the district’s facilities staff.

The district said it is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak on a daily basis, but as of Monday, the spring sports’ season — which started March 2 — is on schedule.

If schools are closed, the potential impacts to the end of the school year are still unknown — from make-up days, alternative learning options, graduation and beyond. District officials said they have reached out to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to explore the impacts of any closure, and noted “OSPI is working to address these questions.”

At last week’s school board meeting, Bang-Knudsen updated the board on the district’s response to COVID-19.

While the district is developing a plan of action for the outbreak, some precautionary steps have already been taken.

The custodial team in the district’s maintenance department has met to reiterate best practices, and additional sanitizing products have been ordered.

Each classroom will be equipped with sprays and cleaning cloths, and additional supplies of hand sanitizer will also be available.

The maintenance department is also monitoring absenteeism rates and will take additional measures if needed.

Schools are also being cleaned and sanitized, and officials said special attention is being given to high touch points such as handrails and door hardware.

The staff of the district’s transportation department is also increasing the frequency of cleaning and sanitizing buses.