Dearborn Public Schools announced Wednesday evening that Whitmore Bolles Elementary School would be closed, at least temporarily, after a staff member came in contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko said the move was “out of an overabundance of caution,” as the District and the staff member await the results of tests to see if the person had contracted COVID-19.
No other Dearborn Public School closings are planned at this time.
As of the Wednesday evening, Whitmore Bolles was closed only for Thursday. Officials hope to have the results of the person’s COVID-19 test by Thursday afternoon. Then a decision will be made about reopening. The staff person only worked at Whitmore Bolles. No other information was released because of privacy concerns for the employee.
“The impact of the COVID-19 virus is a very dynamic and fluid situation. How we address this today may not be the same practice or protocol for future cases,” Dr. Maleyko said during a press conference at the District’s Administrative Services Center on Wednesday evening. “We are in constant contact with public health officials at Wayne County, the State of Michigan, and the Center for Disease Control. We will continue to work directly with them and follow their recommendations on containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
Dr. Maleyko said it was his decision to close the school, although the health department felt the risk to the students and staff was very low. If the staff person is shown to have the virus, the District would likely be directed by the Wayne County Health Department on how to proceed.
Speakers at the press conference included Maleyko, Communications Director David Mustonen, and Board President Hussein Berry.
“I can speak from the heart as a father and grandfather in this district. I am extremely confident that the decision made today was the right decision,” Mr. Berry said. He encouraged people to get current information from the District website, and not to rely on reports on social media.
The district will use Thursday to ensure the school has a deep cleaning, using both District staff and an outside company familiar with dealing with germs.
Meanwhile, Dr. Maleyko reiterated common sense advice on slowing the spread of all viruses, including washing hands thoroughly or using hand sanitizer, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or an arm, and staying home if you are sick.
The District has fielded questions about converting to online learning. While Dearborn Schools has long supported online learning, it cannot quickly convert to entirely virtual schools. Any such change could also hurt students, especially low-income children who may not have ready access to suitable technology or internet to complete lessons from home.
Maleyko also was asked about parents who opt to keep their children at home.
“I always say that parents always have the right to make a decision in the best interest of their family and their child,” Maleyko said. “We have no other information that leads us to believe we have any other risks any other Dearborn Public Schools at this time.”
Obviously the situation with the virus is evolving, and any decisions on further school closings will be made on a case-by-case basis, the Superintendent said.
Maleyko said, “We come here today not to alarm, panic or create stress, but to demonstrate our team’s readiness to address this concern and be prepared. We come here today as a team because the task of planning and preparing is not the decision of one person, but requires the expertise and skills of all of us,” Maleyko said.
Dearborn Public Schools will continue to post information about any response to COVID-19 on our website at www.dearbornschools.org.