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School superintendents to meet to discuss COVID-19

HANCOCK — Superintendents within the Copper Country Intermediate School District will meet with Western Upper Peninsula Health Department officials on Wednesday morning for continued updates regarding updates on COVID-19, which occur on a regular basis.

While there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the area, local schools are following recent guidance from several sources. including Michigan Department of Education Superintendent Rice, Western Upper Peninsula Health Department officials, as well as the Center for Disease Control (CDC). As there have been no cases, local schools are being advised to continue to keep schools open.

“Hancock Public Schools’ leadership will be keeping you updated on a timely basis as we continue to receive new information from our “primary sources” working to find ways to slow the spread of and find anecdotes for the virus,” Superintendent Steve Patchin stated in a Tuesday afternoon email.

Michigan Technological University, in Houghton, and Finlandia University, in Hancock, have cancelled “face-to-face” classes, moving to all online instruction. Michigan Tech, which is currently on Spring Break, will begin conducting online classes on March 16, until April 17.

Class closures at Michigan’s 15 universities have classified as preventative measures, precautions to mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19, or coronavirus.

Patchin stated that Hancock Schools’ staff has already begun to follow recommended processes by the CDC to combat any virus including:

• Wiping down and sterilizing flat surfaces and handles in the schools touched by students.

• Encouraging regular and proper hand washing procedures.

“Even though we do not have any documented cases of the CoronaVirus in our area,” Patchin stated, “we ask that you support our efforts by sterilizing flat surfaces and handles in your house, as well as encourage your students to wash their hands on a consistent basis. We also ask that if your student falls ill with a cough or cold, especially with a fever, that you keep them home from school to recover from the virus they have.”

Patchin stated that one of the strengths of the Hancock community is the displayed compassion for each in challenging times.

“On a larger scale, we have witnessed this in both the Fathers’ Day Flood and the unfortunate collapse of the Barkell Elementary roof,” stated Patchin. “More recently, we have witnessed your students’ compassion for their peers in their participation in the Unified School basketball game, as both fans and players!”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Tuesday evening, March 10, in response to the discovery of the first two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.

The emergency declaration will allow the state to maximize efforts and assist local governments and officials in slowing the spread of the virus. Late today, the governor announced recommended community mitigation strategies for local school districts and childcare facilities. In doing so, she said: “We are encouraging schools, universities, businesses, and other organizations to use their best judgment about what steps are most appropriate to keep people safe and to slow the spread of the disease.”

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) states that decisions to exclude a student or staff member, or to close schools and childcare centers altogether, must be made on a case-by-case and location-by-location basis, in coordination with local health departments. These decisions are local in nature and could vary from district to district or school to school.

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