Local schools prepare to fight off coronavirus

Trish Hartman Image
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Local schools prepare to fight off coronavirus
A Delaware school district demonstrated its newest tool against germs Tuesday.

BEAR, Delaware (WPVI) -- A Delaware school district demonstrated its newest tool against germs Tuesday.

New hand-held battery-powered disinfectant wands will now be used to disinfect surfaces at Kathleen Wilbur Elementary School in Bear, Delaware, spraying a fine germ-killing mist onto desks, lockers and other high-traffic areas.

"Traditionally we would have to spray it down and then we'd have to let it sit five to ten minutes and then wipe it down," said Ted Lambert, Supervisor of Facilities at Colonial School District. "With the new Protexus wand, we can actually go through and spray it down, let it sit and dry and we're good to go."

Officials with Colonial School District started budgeting for these in their schools last spring, and say the timing couldn't be better.

"It's been effective on other versions of the coronavirus so we're confident that it will definitely help if the virus does make it to Delaware," said Lambert.

Schools in other parts of the country are already affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

More than a dozen schools in Washington state are closed, with a ninth coronavirus death in the state announced Tuesday.

Three schools in New York state closed after a father tested positive for COVID-19.

Pennsylvania state officials issued an updated plan last week. Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera advised school communities to practice good hygiene

"As school leaders, you should also take the opportunity to review your existing pandemic plan, and work with local health and emergency officials to update those plans to address a potential virus outbreak in your community," Rivera said.

In a news conference Monday, New Jersey state officials encouraged school districts and parents to review remote learning options, in case of prolonged illness or if school closures are necessary.

"They'll continue education whether it's through online platforms, Google Docs, Google Drive is one of the most popular platforms. A lot of districts have various platforms that can deliver information or instruction via the internet," said Dr. Lamont Repollet, New Jersey Commissioner of Education.

But the New Jersey Education Association says while safety is a priority, prolonged school closures would be uncharted territory, and voiced concerns about access to technology.

"Our first priority is the health of students and staff. We support smart, proactive measures to ensure that this virus does not threaten our communities, including closing schools if that is necessary to protect community health... We are very concerned that not all students have equal access to the online tools needed to take advantage of remote learning, and we urge districts and the New Jersey Department of Education to do everything in their power to ensure that no students are denied their right to public education because they are unable to access the internet," said a statement from NJEA.

Governor Phil Murphy was scheduled to hold calls Tuesday with school districts across the state to talk about preparedness plans.

Currently, there are no reported cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware.