CLOSING: Westside School shutting down campus starting Thursday, preparing for online classes

Another school closure – out of caution, NOT because of illness: Westside School (WSB sponsor) in Arbor Heights will close its campus starting this Thursday, and is getting ready for online instruction. From the letter sent to families:

Dear Westside School families,

We are making the difficult but necessary decision to close school at the end of the day on Wednesday in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Effective Thursday, March 12, Westside School will be closed for at least two and a half weeks, with the possibility of an extended closure. We will continue to hold conferences as scheduled this week remotely by phone or Zoom to minimize adult contact.

This has been a complex and painful decision to close. There are a multitude of factors and I am very aware of the challenges and complications it presents to our families and the impact it has on you. However, after careful consultation and collaboration with my leadership team and the Chair of our Board, with medical professionals, and with public health, we are confident that we are making a decision that places the highest priority on the safety and well-being of our children, staff and families in our immediate and wider communities.

Why are we deciding to close school now?

Since my letter to you on Sunday March 8, the factors informing the decision about holding school have shifted, with the number of COVID-19 cases rising in recent days, including a case reported in West Seattle, and a steady increase of area independent schools making the decision to close. Furthermore, guidance from government agencies has moved in the direction of greater urgency and more support for schools to make independent decisions that best serve their communities. Governor Inslee last night said that genetic modeling by the University of Washington suggests there could be as many as 1,000 cases in the state. He added “that’s why all of us have to be dedicated to making decisions earlier in this epidemic, even when it may not seem overwhelming at the moment.”

We currently have no known cases of COVID-19 within the Westside School community, and yet we have colleagues and family members who are in at-risk categories. We are more comfortable with a position of caution and vigilance in such a rapidly evolving and deteriorating public health crisis. This decision allows us to support the safety efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus in our community at large.

We are closing at the end of the day tomorrow (Wednesday), and not today, in order to give parents 24 hours to prepare.

What is the day-by-day plan?

Tuesday 3/10 – a regular day, EDP and sports practice open.

Wednesday 3/11 – school ends at the regular time (2:45 for PS/PK; 3:15 for K-4; 3:30 for Middle School). EDP and sports practices canceled. All students will bring home everything they need for extended remote learning. Regularly scheduled Middle School conferences begin remotely by Zoom.

Thursday 3/12 – regularly scheduled conferences for both divisions, held remotely. EDP closed.

Friday 3/12 – regularly scheduled conferences for both divisions, held remotely. EDP closed.

Saturday 3/13 and Sunday 3/14 – volleyball games canceled.

Monday 3/16 – Day One of official closure. Teacher in-service day for technology training. Catch-up/reading day for students.

Tuesday 3/17 – Day Two of official closure. Remote content planning day for teachers. Catch-up/reading day for students. General all-school remote learning plan will be sent to families, as well as grade and class specific remote learning plan.

Wednesday 3/18 – First day of remote learning.

Thursday 3/19 – WPA Parent Education event postponed.

Saturday March 28 – Spirit Auction postponed. We have been planning for this possibility for a couple of weeks. Our Advancement Team will be sending out full details in due course.

When will Westside School re-open?

The short answer is that we cannot be certain at this time. The factors that have led us to school closure are complex. The factors that will help us to decide to re-open will be equally difficult. My team and I will continue to monitor the situation closely and daily. We will re-assess the situation officially on Thursday March 26 for a Monday March 30 re-opening. Please prepare for a longer closure.

How will conferences work?

By Wednesday afternoon, we will send out explicit instructions to parents on how to connect with teachers for your regularly scheduled conferences. Many of our teachers will choose to host the conference by Zoom from their classrooms so that they can continue to show evidence of student work and progress. …

How do I handle this situation with my child?

This evening, I urge you to talk with your child(ren) about this decision and to help them understand that you – and the school – are taking care of them. Children are resilient, and we owe them thoughtful and honest explanations of what a situation like this means to us. They can handle complexity, uncertainty, and frustration, in ways that often surprise us. Much of what we work on in our social and emotional learning program at school is developing the ability to name and manage our emotions. This time away from school, though not ideal, does give children an opportunity to grow in unexpected ways. I will have more to share on this later.

Final thoughts for today

I truly understand the profound and disruptive effects this decision will have on our families; this was not an easy decision to make, and I hope you understand the thought and care that went into it.

A caring community is one of Westside School’s values: “We believe students become caring members of a global community by treating each other honestly, with respect and generosity of spirit.” I firmly believe it is our community that will guide us and help us meet this challenge. We must work together and support each other in this unprecedented time. None of us have all the answers, but I believe we as a community will see this outbreak through day by day. It will pass, and when it does pass and we look back on what we’ve learned, I am very hopeful we will be able to tell ourselves that it brought us closer together as a community and made us stronger.

Thank you everyone, truly, for your patience, understanding, and commitment to working together through this unprecedented time, and please stay safe and healthy.

Warm regards,

Steve de Beer
Head of School

Though schools are communicating directly with families, we’re publishing notices like these as we get them/confirm them so the wider community is updated too. As always, we appreciate tips/info on this and all other kinds of local news, or text/voice 206-293-6302 – thank you!

12 Replies to "CLOSING: Westside School shutting down campus starting Thursday, preparing for online classes"

  • Terri March 10, 2020 (2:06 pm)

    Well done and well said, Westside leadership!

  • Kram March 10, 2020 (5:11 pm)

    Not well done. Pointless.

  • dcn March 10, 2020 (8:08 pm)

    A smart and thoughtful decision by Westside leadership. Read this, if you think proactive closures are not warranted: 

    A quote: “Proactive school closures—closing schools before there’s a case
    there—have been shown to be one of the most powerful nonpharmaceutical
    interventions that we can deploy. Proactive school closures work like
    reactive school closures not just because they get the children, the
    little vectors, removed from circulation. It’s not just about keeping
    the kids safe. It’s keeping the whole community safe.”

    And this:

    A quote from this article: “When
    Chinese Researchers relied on contact tracing — testing people who come
    in contact with a confirmed case — children seemed to be getting
    infected at the same rate as adults. ‘We know from pandemic
    research that closing schools can be effective in slowing down
    transmission because children are often a driver of infection. They
    spread it to parents, relatives and the wider community,’ said Caitlin
    Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health

    We are playing a very dangerous game by keeping public K-12 schools open. When the numbers start to skyrocket in a couple of weeks, we will wish we had acted sooner. Our hospitals can’t handle 20% of infected people needing hospitalization (the rate seen in other countries) if our number of infected go into the thousands. We need to shut them down now.

    • A March 10, 2020 (9:11 pm)

      As a teacher and parent with kids in SPS I could not agree more.  The schools need to close!

    • Kram March 11, 2020 (7:32 am)

      I understand the reasoning overall but if all schools don’t close it makes much less sense. What do they expect will be different on April 1? It’s going to be worse, not better. Assuming that’s the case what would be next step? When would these make up days be? I would think a couple days closure for a deep clean and teaching children good hygiene would be more impactful. Just so you know; many of these parents are organizing large groups of daycare as most parents cannot take 3 weeks off of work. These kids are still in contact with each other in this case.

    • Arbor Heights Mom March 11, 2020 (7:54 am)

      Science mag link is a 404 error

  • A March 10, 2020 (8:38 pm)

    I think more schools need to follow this example and take a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach.  Way to go Westside for leading this example in West Seattle.

  • Arbor Heights Mom March 11, 2020 (7:54 am)

    Kids are not becoming ill. If we close schools, we lose the ability to feed the 40% of Washington state school children who receipt SNAP benefits, and we punch a hole through the availability of health care workers and first responders who will lose the ability to work if their kids aren’t in school. And if you think kids are not going to congregate when school is closed, they did during the H1N1 closures and they are right now where schools have closed (meeting in homes to do online school together). The State Health Department has tracked the % of people infected by age group. This data suggests that kids are contracting the virus. More data may mean a different answer, obvs.

  • TeaMaven March 11, 2020 (9:36 am)

    Many private schools in Seattle have already closed; it’s the smart thing to do. 

  • KM March 11, 2020 (10:51 am)

    For parents who are able to weather a school closure for their own families, are you able to step up and provide meals and child care for children who will lose this if schools close? I imagine it will be hard for community members who aren’t already ingrained in our school system as volunteers, teachers or parents to get involved from a liability standpoint/lack of background checks on file, but I await SPS’s contingency plans to see how others in the community can help.

  • Alki Mom March 11, 2020 (11:06 am)

    I’m glad i’m not a Westside school parent… !

  • SB March 11, 2020 (1:43 pm)

    This is a thoughtful approach and the notice  gave parents a chance to plan.  Seattle Public Schools announced closure for the same date.  We are all in this together as a community and leadership is applauded for its foresight and working to protect our community. 

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