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How the Coronavirus Epidemic Has Affected Our Schools

How the Coronavirus Epidemic Has Affected Our Schools

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Guest Post by Dr. Samer Koutoubi, M.D., Ph.D.
Program Director, Public Health, American Military University

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have put K-12 schools and daycare centers on alert and asked their administrators to take key steps to prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak. Schools have been working closely with public health officials and deciding the best measures to take, including school closures.

While closing schools will help to deter the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many questions remain to be answered:

  • How long should schools be closed?
  • Who authorizes the closure?
  • Will the school curriculum be followed and correctly applied in an online environment?
  • How will the students learn in online classes?
  • Will it be synchronous or asynchronous?
  • Should teachers prepare to deliver curriculum content online?
  • Will students’ grades and learning outcome be measured differently?

Some School Systems in Washington State Have Already Closed

The fear of coronavirus and flu has forced schools to close and have students stay home and take classes online. As a precaution, Northshore School District – a school system with over 23,000 students – has now closed all of its schools for two weeks starting March 5 due to coronavirus concerns. Three schools in this district have a small number of staff and volunteers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and are undergoing tests.

At least 12 western Washington schools and one college had already closed for deep cleaning out of an “abundance of caution” over the coronavirus. These schools were:

  • Frank Love Elementary in Bothell
  • Covington Elementary in Kent
  • Kentwood High School in Kent
  • Bothell High School in Bothell
  • Hazen High School in Renton
  • Jackson High School in Mill Creek
  • Cedar Park Christian in Bothell
  • Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland
  • Mariner High School in Mukilteo
  • Discovery Elementary School in Mukilteo
  • Kingston High School in Kitsap County
  • Ferrucci Junior High in Puyallup
  • Wildwood Elementary in Puyallup

Listen to the Podcast with Dr. Koutoubi

CDC Has Developed Special Guidelines

The CDC has developed a document called Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This document urges those school leaders with identified COVID-19 cases in their communities to consult with local health officials before deciding to close facilities or dismiss classes.

School Closures Have Happened Before in American History

According to the Texas Medical Association, school closures happened during the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic. That outbreak killed as many as 675,000 people in the United States and millions more around the world.

Schools in dozens of U.S. cities were closed for as long as four months, a tactic that researchers have generally concluded was beneficial to stemming the spread of the disease. In February 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published pre-pandemic mitigation guidelines that included school closures as an important social-distancing strategy.

Are Schools Prepared to Provide Online Classes?

Some schools, however, may not be prepared to handle and deliver their curriculum online. Moving from the traditional model of “brick and mortar” university to an online education is not an easy move and require a lot of planning.

Commonly, it takes years to be prepared to teach a course online. This work includes preparing faculty and students and applying the accredited relevant curriculum online using a unique learning management system (LMS).

Schools can provide computers or laptops to their students and build a curriculum that will help students to easily access classes and continue their education. Some type of Skype technology for synchronous or asynchronous education or a combination of the two can be successful.

In addition, schools should cancel all trips abroad and start preparing to offer online courses to deliver their curriculum.

Many schools may have already used online learning and systems to deliver courses but many schools also lack such technology. School leaders need to work with local authorities and develop contingency plans in the event that their districts are affected by a coronavirus outbreak.

About the Author

Dr. Samer Koutoubi earned his Ph.D. in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University in 2001. He earned his M.D. degree in 1988 from Iuliu Hațieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. His research focuses on coronary heart disease among tri-ethnic groups including African-Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics. His interest is in disease prevention and wellness, epidemiological research, cardiovascular disease and nutrition, homocysteine metabolism, lipoprotein metabolism, and cultural food and health. Dr. Koutoubi has also authored a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and wrote a book review. He served as the Editor-in-Chief for The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine and reviewed manuscripts for The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Ethnicity and Disease Journal, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and The Journal of The National Medical Association. Dr. Koutoubi has also been quoted in national magazines and newspapers, including Natural Health Magazine, Energy Time, Well Being Journal, Northwest Prime Time, and Natural Food Merchandiser.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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