VA School Cancels Visit of Exchange Students From Wuhan Coronavirus Region
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus that has already killed 17 persons, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia has altered a seven-day cultural exchange program. The program involved a group of 21 young Chinese students and their chaperones and a middle school in Falls Church, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
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WJLA-Channel 7 News reported that Longfellow Middle School was set to welcome the Chinese students at about 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, after they arrived by bus following their flight to New York. They were also expected to meet their host families that evening.
The group comes from Yichang in Hubei province. The city is about 175 miles from the provincial capital of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was said to have originated.
Initially, the school system and the Fairfax County Health Department tried to reassure parents of the unlikelihood that the visitors had the virus. “But after a meeting with the [county] health department, it was decided the group from China would no longer be brought into the school building,” WJLA explained.
Wuhan Students’ Visit Redesigned due to FCPS Parent and Staff Health Concerns
Fairfax County Public Schools on Wednesday released a letter that Longfellow Principal Carole Kihm sent to the families: "In an abundance of caution, we have decided to redesign the cultural exchange program that Longfellow MS was scheduled to begin today, January 22. Although the students will not be visiting Longfellow MS, we will offer to work collaboratively with the travel company to facilitate cultural and educational activities in the DC area so that the students enjoy a positive experience.
“Student and staff health and safety remain our first priority. While health officials believe the risk of illness transmission of the novel Coronavirus from these students is extremely low, we felt it necessary to make this adjustment,” Kihm added.
The Washington Post quoted Fairfax County Public Schools spokeswoman Lucy H. Caldwell, who said the Chinese students will stay at an area hotel.
Caldwell added that the school system “is looking at ways to facilitate virtual instruction or interaction between the visiting students and Longfellow students.”