Public school districts close for 2 weeks in Prescott, Prescott Valley due to coronavirus threat; Chino Valley decision to come Sunday
Updated as of Saturday, March 14, 2020 6:22 PM
Public school districts in Prescott and Prescott Valley will close for the next two weeks “to protect the safety and well-being of students and staff” because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) threats to the community.
Dan Streeter, superintendent for Humboldt Unified School District, said Saturday afternoon, March 14, “This provides us a little bit of time to work through the unknowns that are still floating around out there surrounding this pandemic.”
Prescott Unified School District also will close – March 16-27 – to allow for thorough cleaning of the schools, as well as time to assess the situation, Superintendent Joe Howard said.
Chino Valley Unified School District Superintendent John Scholl was not immediately available. However, Assistant Superintendent Cindy Daniels said the district will make the decision on whether or not to close schools by midday Sunday, March 15, adding that the health and safety of staff and students is of top priority.
“We want to make sure we’re making the best decision for our community,” Daniels said.
The decision comes at the end of spring breaks for the districts (March 9-13), and will impact parents and the community, the school officials agreed. The two-week closure effectively gives students a total of three weeks off.
“This decision was based on the fact that we work for our community,” Howard said. “We have been working closely with health department leaders, but after considering the extensive concerns and input of parents and community members, we really have no choice but to close.”
Streeter said: “I think there’s a lot of impacts with a decision like this. (Howard) is correct. There are people who are demanding the schools close; there are also people who will be impacted. … We’re taking a cautious route.”
School district officials have been following updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and county health officials and reports.
Arizona health officials announced Saturday the state's total now stands at 12 cases of confirmed coronavirus. One is in rural Graham County where the school district had already shut down before test results were available on a school employee who now has tested positive, officials told the Associated Press on Saturday.
Other cases are in Maricopa and Pima counties, giving them four and two cases, respectively. Pinal County has a total of five cases, all in the same household.
Streeter stated in a news release that “while we have been working diligently throughout spring break to develop and implement responses to this situation, it became evident today with the national declaration of emergency that to protect the safety and well-being of students and staff, a closure was necessary.”
Although there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 affecting the school community, “we realize there is still great concern among our stakeholders about how this disease could spread in our schools despite all of the measures taken.”
Both Streeter and Howard said their governing boards are aware and support these decisions.
The HUSD news release added that other measures are also taking place:
• All athletic and fine arts events are canceled until further notice.
• Community Education programs such as Before and After School Programs, Bright Futures Preschool, and Extended Day Programs are canceled through at least March 27.
• Breakfast and lunch service will be available for pick up only as a ‘to go’ option from 8 to 9:30 and 11:30 to 1 at the following locations: Humboldt, Mountain View, Coyote Springs, Lake Valley, Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, Glassford Hill Middle School, and Bradshaw Mountain High School. Please note, any child under the age of 19 can receive a meal from any of the above locations.
A news release from PUSD added that other measures are also taking place:
• All after school clubs and athletics are canceled until further notice.
• All school-related events including athletic games and fine arts performances are canceled until further notice.
• Preschool and daycare programs are canceled until further notice.
• We are working on providing food options for families, and will provide more information soon.
• CTED classes will continue in an online format until further notice.
Howard added that it is unknown at this time the effect this will have on the school year, if it will need to be extended. They also will include in their decision-making whether or not they will move to an online learning format.
“We will be working on those answers as fast as possible, but right now the only answer we have is that there will be no school for two weeks.”
Humboldt district leadership will be meeting Monday morning to further define additional details for HUSD families and staff, the news release states.
For more information, visit the district websites – humboldtunified.com and prescottschools.com, respectively.
Calls on Saturday to officials with Yavapai County Schools and Yavapai County Community Health Services for updates and comments were not returned immediately.
Courier reporter Jason Wheeler contributed to this article.