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Kent County schools to remain open

Posted at 4:57 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 22:43:09-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kent Intermediate School District schools will remain open for the time being.

Kent County health and school officials announced Thursday classes will remain in session. Schools are taking extra precautions to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 and health officials will continue to closely monitor developments in the global pandemic.

“We are going to follow the science … this is a fluid situation and we’re going to do the very best we can as we learn more details to make decision that protect our community. and right now, we believe that this is the best approach considering the data we have,” said Adam London with the Kent County Health Department.

Health officials say data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows kids are at a low risk for developing severe complications from the illness, but could endanger older family members if classes were canceled.

"It’s really our older population and it’s our population of people who have underlying chronic health issues they’re most concerned about. And by and large, by keeping kids in school, we’re protecting those more vulnerable populations," London said.

Kent County has been talking with surrounding counties and all agreed this is currently the best approach regarding the virus with the current information.

Effective immediately, all field trips within the district are canceled and all school-sponsored travel is suspended until further notice. All assemblies and performances involving more than 100 people being in the same room will also be suspended.

Visitors and volunteers will not be permitted in school buildings.

Kent Intermediate School District Superintendent Ron Caniff said they are waiting to make recommendations for spring break travel.

“Because this is so fast and quick-moving and somewhat fluid, I believe as we get a little closer to that date, a few weeks from now, we’re going to lean on the health department in terms of some guidance and recommendations they may have, particularly as it relates to when students return from spring break, if they’ve been traveling abroad or domestically, what protocols we need to implement,” Caniff said.

All athletic events will follow the guidance of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which suspended all winter tournaments earlier Thursday. Decisions on what to do with spring sports are being made on a local level at this point.

There are no possible cases of COVID-19 in Kent County at this time, but London said that will likely be temporary.

“I have no doubt we will see cases in Kent County," he said. "There’s no reason to suspect that we’re not going to see cases of COVID-19 everywhere around the world, we’re already seeing that. We know there is a huge lag in testing resources. We fully expect that because most people are going to be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that don’t require testing that we already have it, most likely, in our community at some very low level.”