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BOONE — In an effort to take further preemptive measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Watauga County Schools has placed a number of restrictions on student and staff travel and activities as leaders evaluate what mandatory school closures "would look like."

Effective March 13 at midnight, the North Carolina High School Athletics Association implemented a suspension of all high school athletic events — including competitions, workouts, practices, conditioning, etc. — until April 6. Watauga County Schools has elected to extend that suspension to all middle school athletic events and practices during the same period of time. No practices, workouts or related activities will be allowed during this time.

Watauga County Schools has also prohibited all out-of-county and out-of-state travel and activities for students until at least April 6. The decision to prohibit travel will be revisited on that date, but could be extended based on current circumstances. School officials are working to recover trip payments and will have additional information for parents about trip refunds as soon as that information is available.

A prohibition has also been placed on all after-school student events, clubs and meetings until at least April 6. The restriction includes but is not limited to dances, clubs, parties and competitions. The Watauga County Schools after-school program will continue to operate as normal to the extent possible for the time being.

Superintendent Scott Elliott said the school system was making every effort to limit unnecessary risk to students and staff.

Elliott said that while state and local health officials recommend keeping schools open at this time, the school district had begun significant contingency planning to prepare for the possibility of extended closures.

“We are taking seriously the recommendation to limit travel to areas of increased risk for exposure to coronavirus and to limit unnecessary large gatherings,” Elliott said. “We are getting frequent updates from the relevant authorities and are continually assessing our plans based on their recommendations.

“School and district leaders are developing plans for what mandatory school closures would look like for our district,” Elliott said. “We are evaluating how we can continue to educate students and continue vital operations as best as possible with closed doors. Our planning includes not only the continuation of instruction, but providing meals and other essential services to our families. We will also develop plans that to the extent possible minimize the financial impact to our employees.”

The situation with the spread of coronavirus is changing rapidly and WCS is constantly evaluating practices and policies based on the recommendation of health officials. Any changes and updates will be posted to the district’s coronavirus information hub at wataugaschools.org/coronavirus.

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