Dr. Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, speaks at a news conference where the district announced the closure of Lowell High School after learning that a relative of a student is being treated for novel coronavirus on Thursday, March 5, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Lowell High School closed due to coronavirus concerns

Relative of student being treated, but student has not shown symptoms

Lowell High School has closed for the remainder of the week after it learned a relative of a student is being treated for COVID-19, otherwise known as the novel coronavirus.

In a voicemail message to parents, students and staff sent Thursday afternoon, the San Francisco Unified School District said the school would be closed Thursday and Friday, with updates on Monday for next steps. The school will be thoroughly cleaned on Friday, said Superintendent Vincent Matthews.

“This afternoon the district learned that a relative of a Lowell High School student is being treated for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus,” the voicemail said. “Out of an abundance of caution and for the safety and well being of our community we have decided to close the school and all events and gathering for the time being.”

Matthews said conversations with the Department of Public Health made the district aware of the link to the two newly diagnosed San Francisco cases announced Thursday morning.

‘There is no general Centers for Disease Control recommendation to close schools, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health does not recommend closing any schools in San Francisco at this time,” the department said in a statement released after the closure of Lowell High School. “If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a school, the Department of Public Health will work with the school and the district to determine the best measures including potential school closure.”

Lowell High School (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

Matthews said the closure was done out of caution and acknowledged it was conservative. Elsewhere in the Bay Area, Action Primary Plus in San Jose, Atherton private school Menlo School, and Oakland charter school Aspire Monarch Academy are also closed through the weekend.

“While it is not our intent to cause undue alarm or disruption to our students’ learning, the District has decided to act conservatively and in the best interest of our community members in announcing this closure,” the district said in a statement. “We know that closing school is disruptive and we appreciate your understanding while we continue to gather facts.”

School district officials said the student had not shown any symptoms but has self-quarantined and was not on campus after lunchtime. All school activities and sports will be canceled through the weekend and the district hopes to provide another update by Friday. There has not been any uptick in reports of flu or cold-like symptoms at city schools so far, added Matthews, and the district did not immediately have information on attendance records in recent weeks.

“This is an evolving situation and we’re learning as we go,” Matthews said. “We’re taking each case as it comes and as we learn more we may handle cases differently as they come forward.”

The district does not recommend that community members self-quarantine unless they exhibit symptoms, but to call 311 with public health questions.

Susan Solomon, president of United Educator of San Francisco, said the district notified her on Thursday past 2 p.m. that it was a parent of a student at the school who was affected. She added that she received”no indication” of other schools with a coronavirus risk.

Lowell has 2,700 students as of the last school year.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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