Public Health guidance for schools

On March 12 at 2:00 pm, Governor Jay Inslee announced that all schools in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties will close from Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, April 24. The decision was made in response to the spread of COVID-19 in the Washington counties hit hardest by the virus.

We are revising our resources and guidance for schools, childcare and families. Please check back often to www.kingcounty.gov/covid as information is updated frequently.


Updated 3-12-20 2:00 pm: Added statement on school closures.

Public Health – Seattle & King County is aware that some schools have preemptively closed based on their unique circumstances. At this time, Public Health – Seattle & King County is not recommending closure of schools and childcare programs when cases of COVID-19 have not been identified in the school community. However, we are watching the outbreak closely and may determine that closures are necessary.

This recommendation is based on analyzing the potential benefits and negative consequences of school closures. Considerations include:

  • Available data showing that children and youth have not been at high risk for severe COVID-19
  • Negative impacts on families of school closures
  • The crucial role schools play in providing nutrition and other critical services to students
  • The burden on the healthcare system if healthcare workers need to stay at home to care for their kids
  • Potential risk to children and staff with underlying health conditions and household members
  • Potential benefits of reducing transmission at a community level

Summary of key guidance for schools:

  • Public Health – Seattle & King County is not recommending preemptive closure of schools and childcare programs at this time. However, we are watching the outbreak closely and may determine that closures are necessary.
  • Schools and childcare programs should prepare now for prolonged mandatory closures. 
  • A critical part of the planning must include how schools can continue to provide non-educational supports for their students such as providing food, developmental disability supports, and school-based healthcare.
  • Implement social distancing measures, such as limiting and altering inter-school interactions (such as staggering recess).
  • Schools should use their discretion to close anytime they cannot meet the educational mission due to staff and student absences.

More information on Public Health’s guidance available here:

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