With 3-week spring break and 90 international students, St. Paul’s School warns of coronavirus concerns

  • St. Paul's School in Concord, Monday, May 22, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 2/26/2020 5:34:55 PM

The emergence of the coronavirus outbreak is complicating plans for spring break at St. Paul’s School, which has 90 international students from 18 countries, many of whom were planning to return home over the three-week stretch, as well as a number of American students who had international travel plans.

“We have been communicating with families directly,” said Vice Rector for School Life Theresa Ferns concerning international students. “They all have plans.”

In particular, all the school’s students from China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, and South Korea will be staying in the U.S. with friends or family members over spring break, which is roughly three weeks. Those two countries are currently ranked as Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control, meaning that all nonessential travel is discouraged.

“We are not putting up any students at school. We don’t have the infrastructure to support them over break,” Ferns said.

As for other student travel plans, Dr. John Bassi, the school’s medical director, sent out a lengthy email to students and families that had some cautionary notes because of the changing nature of CDC travel advisories as the scope of the disease grows.

“This is the information we have now. This is such a fluid situation that in three weeks when students return, it may be very different,” he said. Spring vacation begins this weekend and runs through March 23.

Bassi noted that students’ return could be affected if the status of a country changes while they are overseas during spring break.

“If a student travels to an area with a level 3 advisory or if the travel advisories are raised to a level 3 while students are visiting that area, it is recommended that they be self-quarantined for 14 days before returning to public life. In these cases, the parent(s) or guardian(s) will need to arrange for the student to be off-campus with adult supervision for that duration,” Bassi wrote in his email.

Faculty and staff could also be affected if they have international travel over spring vacation.

Bassi has been the medical director at the boarding school for 12 years. He was there when the H1N1 influenza strain caused similar health concerns, which he says is helping the situation today.

“It geared us up to at least understand the process of a global health threat. ... We are looking at planning and communication with parents the same way,” Bassi said.

Bassi’s email notice said the school will notify the New Hampshire Public Health Department “to determine next steps” if any student or faculty member travels abroad to a Level 1 or 2 country and returns with a fever or flu-like symptoms during the first two weeks after break.

“Working with today’s recommendations, that individual would be isolated, tested, and monitored for 14 days off-campus at a medical facility.”

It ended on an optimistic note: “It is important to remind ourselves that COVID-19 appears to most seriously impact those over the age of 60, the chronically ill, and those with respiratory diseases. So far, it has much less life-threatening consequences on young children, teens, and young adults.”

“The school has been taking the situation very seriously,” said Ferns, the Vice Rector for School Life. “Our team meetings on a regular basis, including dean of students and director of safety. “We will always make decisions that are in best interest of student health and well-being.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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