Local schools are preparing for an outbreak of the novel coronavirus despite the risk remaining low for the majority of the state.


Worldwide, no child fatalities have been reported in connection with the virus, and the Center for Disease Control says COVID-19 seems to cause only mild symptoms in children, similar to a cold.


Still, schools are preparing in case someone in the community comes down with coronavirus. According to CDC guidelines, if that were to happen, the local health department would work to determine whether schools should close temporarily, depending on the severity of the outbreak.


In a statement released Tuesday, the St. Johns County School District said it was working to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including flu and coronavirus.


Superintendent Tim Forson said schools are taking extra measures to remind students to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough, including putting up additional signage.


School nurses are sending home any students with flu-like symptoms, and the district is encouraging parents to keep any sick children home from school. Schools are also monitoring for an increase in absences.


The district’s custodial staff is also increasing their cleaning procedures by sanitizing frequently touched surfaces, including on school buses.


“Should there be a confirmed case of coronavirus in our county, local health officials will provide guidance for any school dismissals,” the statement reads. “We are also working with principals to work on alternatives to deliver instruction if a student or school is required to stay home by the St. Johns County Department of Health. This will be a case-by-case basis based on the student situation and/or the school.”


Brennan Asplen, deputy superintendent for academic and student services, said if the district is prepared to accommodate any students who have to stay home.


“We have an online curriculum that we do through our virtual school, and we also have a learning management system that our teachers and students are on now in which teachers are able to share lessons and videos and sources of curriculum,” Asplen said. “If it were to come to that where a student weren't able to be in school, we’d be able to communicate with the students and parents through that system.”


Asplen said the district could also send devices home with students who don’t have a computer, and they could provide print copies of assignments for students without internet access at home.


“We would definitely be ready to go with our curriculum and serving our students,” Asplen said.


Flagler College has suspended any college-related travel to China, Italy, Japan, Iran and South Korea, and is urging students to reconsider their travel plans if they were planning to visit these areas for personal reasons.


If any students do decide to visit these countries, they will not be permitted within the college’s buildings for 14 days, President Joseph Joyner said in a statement. This includes any Flagler students returning from closed programs in affected areas.


Lisa Fiala, director of Flagler’s International Center, said two students were enrolled in programs in Florence, Italy. Those programs have been canceled, and the students are returning back to the U.S.


There were not any study abroad trips planned for this semester or spring break, so there were no cancellations.


At this time, Flagler College is continuing to move ahead with all summer study abroad programs and is closely monitoring guidance from the CDC, as well as the U.S. Department of State.