Verona Area School District administrative building March 2020

The outside of the Verona Area School District administration building.

The Verona Area School District is prohibiting school-related travel outside of the state of Wisconsin and large group gatherings.

The district announced in a letter to families on Thursday morning that effective immediately, school-based travel is banned, but it cannot make decisions for families on where they personally travel. Cancelation of large group activities, which is defined as more than 50 people, will take effect as of Friday, March 13.

District staff are also planning to educate students virtually, should a situation arise that requires them to close schools.

In an earlier letter to families on Wednesday afternoon, stating it would prepare students and staff for virtual learning as cases of confirmed COVID-19 continue to rise in the U.S.

“While we hope this is not the case in VASD, we will provide ongoing digital instruction in the case of a school closure,” the letter read. “This situation presents us with an opportunity to prepare teachers, students, and families for online learning.”

In the event of a closure, teachers will send out lessons each day using Canvas, Google Classroom and PowerSchool, the letter read. Middle school students already use these programs for everyday curriculum, the letter added, and elementary and high school educators are making plans for digital instruction.

The first cases of COVID-19 were seen in China in late 2019, and the disease has since spread internationally, affecting 127,000 people and killing 4,200. The coronavirus family that causes the disease is also responsible for the common cold and respiratory syndromes such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

COVID-19 was deemed a worldwide pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization. The last time WHO declared a pandemic, which is defined as a worldwide spread of a new disease, was H1N1 influenza in 2009.

In a prior district announcement, it encouraged families to practice good hygiene and avoid touching faces with unwashed hands as a precaution to COVID-19 and influenza, as well as staying home when sick.

All district updates regarding COVID-19 will be posted at verona.k12.wi.us/coronavirus.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.​