McCallie School cancels international Spring Break trip due to coronavirus concerns

The McCallie School sign is shown on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. / Staff file photo
The McCallie School sign is shown on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. / Staff file photo

Amid increased concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, McCallie School has canceled an international trip to South America planned for the school's Spring Break.

Spokesman Bill Steverson responded to rumors that a McCallie student or parent had been exposed to the virus Tuesday afternoon.

"We haven't been informed that any parent had been exposed or tested positive for the coronavirus and we haven't notified any students to that effect," Steverson told the Times Free Press.

But Headmaster Lee Burns did send a letter to students and parents notifying them of the trip cancellation Tuesday evening.

"We have canceled the one school-sponsored Spring Break trip abroad that was planned, and we have canceled all planned, school-sponsored international summer trips," he said in the letter.

"As of the time of writing, there have been no confirmed and reported cases in our area of Southeast Tennessee. That said, we must be realistic and acknowledge that in all likelihood we will have cases of the virus in this area," Burns continued. "Our goal, as I told you in an earlier letter, is to make our campus unfriendly and unwelcoming to the Coronavirus and to have plans in place to take care of your sons in the event the virus is found on Campus."

Burns is the chair of a committee of school faculty and administrators of the all-boys private boarding school in Chattanooga that is working to put plans in place incase of an outbreak locally.

Like many schools and universities, McCallie is creating plans to deliver course content digitally should the school need to cancel classes for an extended period of time.

"We have purchased a cloud-based learning platform/program and are training faculty to use it, enabling us to conduct most classes via distance learning if it becomes necessary to close campus for an extended period," Burns said.

More than 250 of the school's 931 students are boarding students who live on campus, and Burns acknowledged that closing campus would cause hardships for students and families.

Classes will be cancelled for at least two days if there is a confirmed case of the coronavirus on campus, but boarding students will be able to remain on campus.

The school has already announced it will remain open during its spring break starting April 2 for students who are unable to return home due to travel restrictions in place because of the virus.

About 30 students are affected by travel restrictions to China and South Korea, Steverson previously told the Times Free Press. One student is from the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated.

Baylor School also has 54 international students - 36 from China - and is helping them make plans for their spring break, which begins on April 2.

Public school districts in Georgia are on alert after Fulton County Schools closed Tuesday due to a teacher testing positive for the virus.

Another Georgia school district reported that at least one teacher and one student were self-quarantining at home after being exposed to someone who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The CDC has warned the American public to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel, or new, coronavirus, and reported cases have increased across the United States over the past week.

At least seven cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Tennessee as of Tuesday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health and at least two students at the private school Battle Ground Academy in Williamson County have underwent testing for the coronavirus, according to The Tennessean.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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