Following the lead of other districts around the Valley, Scottsdale Unified School District announced schools will not reopen on Monday amidst nationwide concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
The district sent a letter to parents on March 13 notifying them that schools would open as scheduled on March 16 following Spring Break but reversed course later that evening.
SUSD spokesperson Amy Bolton confirmed to the Progress that all schools will be closed for at least two weeks starting March 16.
Students will move to online instruction on March 23.
A second letter from Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard sent to parents on March 13 confirmed the closure.
“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,” the letter said.
According to the letter, all athletic and fine arts events and programs such as Kids Club, Enrichment Zone and preschool programs are also cancelled through at least March 27.
The district announced the reversal following significant backlash from the community to the district’s initial decision to remain open.
This is such a poorly thought out decision,” said Laguna Elementary parent Jennifer Jones. “We all know that the data shows that social distancing works. As a mother to a kindergartener and a preschooler, social distancing is impossible at this age.”
“It simply won’t work if they’re at school,” Jones said. “If we are going to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow down the spread of COVID-19, we have to take the uncomfortable steps now to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Parents and community members took to Facebook, Twitter and other social media to express concerns that students returning from Spring Break travel all over the country could potentially bring the virus back with them and infect other students, district staff and teachers.
That led to concerns that the virus would spread to older teachers and family members and/or those with compromised immune systems.
The elderly and people with chronic illness are most at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, also called novel coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even before the district officially announced the closure, word began to leak out on social media via the Respect Our Scottsdale Students page.
Governing Board Vice President Patty Beckman then confirmed the closure on her Facebook page shortly after the ROSS post.
Kriekard reiterated that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 affecting the SUSD community, but acknowledged that community concerns played a role in the decision to close schools.
“Several factors led to the decision to close our schools," Kriekard said. "Despite having taken all of the recommended precautions to protect students and staff, it became apparent today, after meeting with our principals and receiving valuable input from the community, that closing is the overwhelming choice of our stakeholder groups.”