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School News Network: One school's response to coronavirus

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As the new coronavirus makes its way across the country, and now arriving in Michigan, school officials are doing what they can to protect students from a possible outbreak in West Michigan. At the same time, they’re preparing in case building closures are necessary.

At Rockford’s Roguewood Elementary School, students are being taught to wash their hands thoroughly, with help from an ultraviolet light that shows how germs are spread from hand to hand. Custodians wipe down every door and table with disinfectant, and teachers greet students at their classrooms with elbow bumps or air high-fives instead of handshakes or hugs.

That’s how one area school is protecting against the threat of coronavirus, which has now reached Michigan and has seen more than 1,000 cases nationwide.

For school officials, preparing for a possible outbreak in West Michigan is a tricky balance between taking prudent precautions and hoping for the best, while having contingency plans in case of the worst. While not wanting to exaggerate the risk, Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler said he will err on the side of safety – and close schools if necessary.

Any decision to close would be made between a local district superintendent and the Kent County Health Department, officials say. Schools are in close contact with county and state health departments, and with parents wondering if it’s safe to send their kids to school.

At this point, the answer is yes, says John Helmholdt, spokesman for Grand Rapids Public Schools, noting that the district has school health aides and policies for communicable diseases. However, he adds, the big caveat is this: If your child is showing flu-like symptoms, keep them home from school.

For School News Network, I’m Charles Honey.