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San Francisco Archdiocese closes schools for 10 days to curb virus spread


The Golden Gate Bridge near San Francisco is seen Feb. 26, 2020. The Archdiocese of San Francisco announced March 10 that its schools will close for two weeks as a precaution against exposure to the COVID-19 virus. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- The Archdiocese of San Francisco announced March 10 that its schools will close for two weeks as a precaution against exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Schools superintendent Pamela Lyons announced that all 90 archdiocesan K-12 schools will be closed March 12-25. There are 22 preschools, 55 elementary schools and 13 high schools in the archdiocese, with a student population of more than 24,000.

The school decision was made after a March 8 confirmation from the San Francisco Public Health Department that a student at an archdiocesan school had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Separately, ICA Cristo Rey, an independent all-girls Catholic school in the city's Mission District neighborhood, had closed March 6 for two weeks after a custodian tested positive for COVID-19.

"The public's health and safety are paramount to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and all of our community and educational partners," Lyons said, adding that more COVID-19 cases are expected across the archdiocesan schools.

The closure includes the cancellation of any planned school events such as fundraisers and community activities, as well as field trips. School buildings will not be open to children, parents or community members during the closure.

Course content will be delivered by the archdiocesan distance learning protocol that has been distributed to all schools.

Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco provided guidance for students and teachers to follow during the closure, explaining that teachers would work remotely during regular school day hours and students are expected to log in to classes by 9 a.m. each day and complete all posted assignments on a daily basis.

Students are expected to communicate with their teachers on a regular basis if they need help with assignments. Teachers will respond to any student messages as quickly as possible to ensure student success in their academic progress. Messages from students during the regular school day will receive responses within 60 minutes. Any messages from students sent outside of school time will receive responses by 9 a.m. the next day.

Lyons said families are asked to report to their school leadership team any confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 in a student. District administrators will continue to work closely with county health departments and provide updates as new information becomes known, she said.

"I understand this is an evolving health concern, and guidance is changing daily," Lyons said, adding that the decision to close involved collaboration and coordination withother Catholic leaders as well as the Centers for Disease Control and local county health departments.

She urged parents to inform their child's school if their child receives a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

"I understand the hardship this may cause for families," Lyons added. "We made this decision out of maximum consideration for the health and safety of our children and school community members."

Lyons ensured families that the schools department is working closely with the San Francisco Department of Public Health for updates and guidance.

"As a community of faith, I ask that you pray especially for the sick, health care providers, public health officials and all community leaders during the weeks to come," Lyons said.

San Francisco imposed a local public health emergency March 6 after the first two COVID-19 cases were confirmed. The city curtailed large public gatherings and urged those over 60 and with chronic health conditions to limit public contact.

The number of confirmed cases in San Francisco had risen to 14 March 10 as the city's health system prepared for a possible surge of patients needing care for respiratory illness. Statewide, there were 153 cases and two deaths as of March 10.

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This story was provided by Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

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