COOLIDGE — As concerns over COVID-19 grow internationally, local school districts are already taking measures in hopes of curbing the spread of the disease.
For students of the Coolidge Unified School District, that may mean that some school trips will be canceled. Four items dealing with student travel to other parts of the state on the CUSD Governing Board consent agenda were tentatively approved in a 3-1 vote at Wednesday's school board meeting.
However, the items were modified to enable Superintendent Charie Wallace to cancel the trips if deemed necessary amongst growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus.
The items, which included three trips to Tucson and one trip to Flagstaff, were pulled off the consent agenda for further discussion by Board President Michael Flores II.
"I know that there is a lot of worry and fear out there with COVID-19 and I'd like to assure you that we are doing everything we can possible at Coolidge Unified," he said.
With some of the request for travel scheduled as soon as April and others as far out as June, some board members were reluctant to cancel the trips outright.
"My opinion would be that we would approve it and then if, as we get closer towards that date, things are not looking better then we would look at it then," said board member Lisa Garrett. "But we've got some (trips) that are in June and I would think by June, surely, this would go away."
The trips were approved by the board, with board member Keith Seaman dissenting.
Superintendent Charie Wallace informed board members that she made the decision due to COVID-19 to cancel a trip scheduled to go to Disneyland in April that was approved last month.
"I canceled it this week because Disneyland is an international spot for a lot of people," Wallace said. "We just have a responsibility as a district to protect the health and safety of our staff and students. You (the governing board) approved it, but I made a decision that they could not go."
She noted that the decision could be re-evaluated if the weather gets warmer, as warmer climates may make the coronavirus harder to spread. The decision, Wallace stated, has not gone over easy with some parents.
"There has been some push back, and there (have) been parents that called," she said. "But you know, I can't approve something like that knowing what we know — that California has schools closed (and) the northwest does. (Disneyland) is an international destination with a lot of people. ... You just don't want it being brought back."
Wallace also provided board members with an update on the measures the district may take in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus. The district has approved for schools to be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected over spring break.
Prior to the widespread concern over the virus, district staff ordered additional sanitization supplies to gear up for the regular cold and flu season.
Hand sanitizer will be provided for classrooms and according to Dan McWilliams, director of plant operations, classrooms will be disinfected every single day.
But even with a new order of supplies just in, Wallace noted that the district will be rationing its resources.
Other measures the district may have to take if coronavirus is not contained includes closing down schools. But the action may also present a challenge for CUSD when it comes to students that depend on the meals they get at school.
"We put together a plan, loosely, on how to distribute food," Wallace said. "But the problem is, can we get the food? And then if we can get the food, the challenge is how to get the food to the students with this web of federal rules governing when and where students can eat."
CUSD announced on Thursday that it will cancel Spring Intercession, which was scheduled for March 16-19. In a statement, the district said it will use that week to deep clean, sanitize and disinfect classrooms, offices, athletic facilities, activity spaces and buses.
Teachers that were scheduled to teach during the week in order to meet 301 requirements will be issued a letter by the district that indicates that their 301 requirements have been met, the statement reads.
The district will also be closing down all offices on March 16 and 17. Beginning March 16, all campuses will be closed for a period of two weeks. However, indoor activities and athletics will be permitted to resume on March 23.
"Some people think we're overreacting and that it's just a media hype," Wallace said. "And that could be. But we have to take extreme measures in order to contain it."