Menlo School, a private school in Atherton, reopened today after a three-day closure related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Last Tuesday, March 3, Menlo students received an email from Head of School Nathaniel Healy stating that a faculty member had been exposed to COVID-19. In order to deep clean the school, it was closed for the remainder of the week.
“Basically, one of our faculty members’ relatives… tested positive,” Libby Eggemeier, a Menlo junior, explained.
The faculty member also eventually tested positive for coronavirus. However, the email made it clear that Menlo would reopen regardless of the test results.
“From what I got from the email, [the reason Menlo closed] was mainly that they wanted to deep clean the school and not have kids in one concentrated area all potentially exposed,” Martina Punnonen, another Menlo junior, said. “The faculty member is now in self-quarantine.”
Healy, the school board, and the San Mateo Health Department all weighed into the decision to close. Advice from Menlo parents was also considered.
“There’s a couple Menlo parents who are doctors who are working on a vaccine, and they were being consulted,” Eggemeier said. “I don’t think they took the decision lightly.”
Aside from the closure, Menlo is taking additional steps to protect students from the coronavirus. Eggemeier, a part of Mock Trial, noted that her team’s competitions were affected.
“All-school events got canceled, so the Mock Trial team isn’t allowed to go to states,” said Eggemeier. “We’ve been going for ten years, and it’s a really big deal; we have a good chance of winning.”
In addition, basketball teams were not allowed to go to championships, abroad trips were canceled, and self-serving in the cafeteria was prohibited. Given all the precautions, Punnonen was surprised to be returning to school so quickly.
“I personally didn’t think we were going back to school,” Punnonen commented. “To me, it seems a little bit funny that they don’t know the test results [before reopening].”
Upon returning, Menlo senior Cami Gorospe voiced doubts about the scale of the “deep cleaning.”
“We had to clean our own desks on Monday [during] first block,” Gorospe said. “There were still crumbs and eraser shavings on the desks from last Tuesday.”
According to Gorospe, the building that the faculty member worked in was cleaned by professionals. However, the professionals did not clean Menlo’s classrooms.
“Menlo outsourced cleaning Stent, the faculty lounge, college counseling office, library, cafeteria, student center, and bathrooms,” Gorospe stated. “Essentially, places of high traffic. But, I think all the classrooms were cleaned by Menlo facilities.”
There is no guarantee that Menlo will not close again, especially since other schools are considering it.
“A bunch of other schools have been talking about doing other closures,” Punnonen said. “Sacred Heart has been saying that since they’re so close to us, they might close. I think it’s kind of a domino effect.”