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caption: Kids file into Laurelhurst Elementary School on Friday, June 16, 2017, on NE 47th St., in Seattle, Washington. 
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Kids file into Laurelhurst Elementary School on Friday, June 16, 2017, on NE 47th St., in Seattle, Washington.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle schools remain open amid COVID-19 outbreak, absentee rate goes up

Although many employers in the Seattle area are having employees work from home to avoid the spread of coronavirus, most schools remain open.

Seattle Public Schools is giving special emergency time off for salaried staff who are quarantined, or who are in high-risk groups including pregnant people, workers over age 60, and those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems.

They'll receive paid leave for most of a two-week emergency leave if they can provide a note from a doctor.

About 500 school staff members were out Thursday – twice the normal rate. But student absenteeism in the district is only slightly higher than usual, according to spokesperson Tim Robinson.

Seattle has yet to close a school, although nine have been disinfected. Robinson said those cases were due to possible exposure to COVID-19, although he knows of no students or staff who have tested positive for the disease.

Robinson says the district is staying open partly because so many students rely on school for other services, “things like health care or meals during the day. And we want that to continue as long as possible. But again, our staying open is still a function of us following the guidance of public health, Seattle and King County.”

To prevent running out of substitutes, Superintendent Denise Juneau has asked central office staff to volunteer to fill in as teachers, cafeteria workers or other support staff.