East Lansing Public Schools Working on Coronavirus Plans

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Monday, March 2, 2020, 7:15 am
Alice Dreger

Superintendent Dori Leyko presents material at the Jan. 27, 2020, School Board meeting (photo by Raymond Holt)

Note: An update to this article has been posted at the end.

ELi runs a service called Ask ELi to Investigate in which we work to get answers to readers’ questions. Our report last week on the likely impact on MSU’s international student population from the novel coronavirus led to this question from another reader:

“What if any are the contingency plans by the East Lansing public school system for a possible coronavirus outbreak? This question came to mind after I read the following in the New York Times: ‘Federal officials warned this week that a coronavirus outbreak could force schools to close for a long period.’”

ELi’s sister statewide nonprofit news service The Bridge reported last week that school districts in Michigan are “scrambling” to prepare for potential coronavirus outbreaks. So, we asked ELPS Superintendent Dori Leyko what’s being planned for our public schools.

As of now, Leyko’s team has no “predetermined plans in place for a long-term school closing as a result of an outbreak of the coronavirus. We would likely receive guidance from the MDE [Michigan Department of Education] and/or our ISD [Intermediate School District] to explore remote instruction and how current requirements for instructional time might be met.”

Leyko noted that a District cabinet meeting is set for today in which “this topic will be further discussed, and there are also conversations taking place among local superintendents.”

Coming out of that meeting, Leyko expects to be communicating with District families about following guidelines to minimize infection transmission. Such guidelines typically include advice to stay home if you’re sick, to avoid person-to-person skin contact, to cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and to wash or otherwise sanitize your hands frequently.

She says she is also asking all school principals “to ensure that there is ample hand sanitizer in each building and to encourage the strategies” being promulgated for infection reduction.

‘Deep clean’ of District buildings is underway

The District is also “beginning a ‘deep clean’ of all of our buildings weekly, like we have in the past when there have been other outbreaks of viruses.” According to Leyko, the deep clean “consists of wiping down all surfaces with a disinfecting solution that must remain on the surface for at least ten minutes.”

According to Leyko, the Ingham Intermediate School District — the countywide agency that provides support services to public schools in this region — has been in communication with the Ingham County Health Department and the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA), “and a toolkit is being created for districts across the state.”

Leyko expects “more guidance and resources will be distributed to districts early this week,” including from the Governor’s office.

The data available so far on the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 suggests that the disease more severely affects older adults than young children, but children can function as vectors for the disease. People (including children) with underlying health conditions appear to suffer more serious reactions to the virus.

We’ll work to keep you updated on these issues. In the meantime, do you have a question you want to ask ELi? Contact us.

Update: Leyko sent a communication to parents late in the day on March 2, recommending sanitary procedures and instructing parents to keep children home from school if they are sick and to take them to medical providers if they show signs of fever, cough, or shortness of breath. You can see the communication here.


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