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Bothell HS re-opens on Monday after closing for cleaning amid COVID-19 concerns

One staff member recently came back from international travel. A family member became sick, and the school closed out of an abundance of caution.

BOTHELL, Wash. — A Bothell High School staff member's family member who fell sick after traveling internationally tested negative for coronavirus Friday, according to the Snohomish Health District.

Bothell High School was closed Thursday and Friday out of an abundance of caution due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.

The school will be back open as normal on Monday, March 2.

In a letter to parents, Northshore School Superintendent Michelle Reid said a high school staff member returned to work on Monday after a week of international travel.

That staff member reported that a family member they were traveling with became sick on Tuesday. That person was taken to a hospital where they are being treated, monitored, and quarantined.

There have been no positive tests for COVID-19 from the school or the staff member's family, but the high school closed its doors as a precaution.

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On Thursday evening, Superintendent Reid sent another letter to parents letting them know a large portion of the cleaning and disinfecting was done Thursday. However, closing for another day will allow them to finish and also give more time for the person's test results to come back.

"I do not make this decision lightly," said Superintendent Reid in the letter.

All evening activities on the school campus are canceled for Friday, and staff will make a decision on weekend activities sometime on Friday.

One parent KING 5 spoke with Thursday said the decision to close the school likely frightened many parents.

"I think it probably did scare a lot of people," said parent Shane Kruse Thursday. "I'm sure a lot of people were thankful it was closed just in case but in the end I think it was overkill.

Superintendent Reid said she consulted with many sources about closing the school and stands by her decision.

“Would I make the same decision I made last night with the same fact pattern? Absolutely," said Superintendent Reid. "Given the fact pattern I had about one of our 33 schools to make sure it was fully cleaned and disinfected before we had students and staff come back seemed to me to be a reasonable decision.”

COVID-19 test results were expected to come back in five to seven days, but the school asked to expedite those results.

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"I want to be clear that the staff member is not the individual who is being tested for the coronavirus. These steps are being taken out of an abundance of caution. In these unusual circumstances as the national picture continues to evolve" Superintendent Reid said.

The Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman issued a statement Thursday in response to the school's closing. 

“Public Health’s role is to share the information we have about any given situation and about COVID-19, and to offer our best advice and judgment to decision-makers. We are confident that the superintendent made this decision after considering the specific facts of the situation, and knowing the community concerns better than anyone. In the future, our hope is that the ability to do lab testing at the state level will shorten the turnaround time for COVID-19 tests, and make decisions like this a lot easier," read Wiesman's statement.

The Department of Health believes the risk to students and staff is minimal. Department officials said they don't believe the current situation warranted the closing of the high school.

Public Health - Seattle & King County said it did not currently recommend closing the school. 

"Though this closure is not necessary from a public health point of view, we know that school districts act out of extra special caution when they are protecting children. And the school knows its community best and is in charge of making decisions about the school," a statement from Public Health reads. "Public Health will continue to provide guidance to the Northshore School District and will provide any support that we can."

In the letter sent to parents, Superintendent Reid said staff has taken "initial steps to disinfect the areas where the staff member traveled on the campus, we need more time to fully and completely disinfect the entire school as a preventive measure." 

Read the full letter here

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