Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett has assured district families that members of a group from China who visited Lincoln High School on Jan. 15 and 16 hadn’t been exposed to the coronavirus and aren’t showing signs of being sick.

In a Jan. 31 letter to district families, Barrett wrote that an outbreak of coronavirus detected in parts of China has begun to show up in areas of the United States and “We know this situation is a concern for many in our school community, and we wanted to provide information to families about symptoms and preventative measures for this virus,” he said.

“In addition, our district recently had visitors from China at our high school, and we wanted to share information from their sponsoring organization,” he wrote.

As part of the district’s International Partnership of Education Research and Communication program, Lincoln High School hosted visitors from China, Barrett said.

Judy Hengstebeck, the district’s communications coordinator, said 31 students were in the delegation.

After spending time at the high school and with host families, Barrett said, the students returned to China.

He said IPERC has been in close contact with the students, and they have assured district leaders that none of them were exposed to the virus and they aren’t showing any symptoms of being ill.

“While we do not believe there is any reason for concern, as a precautionary measure, we will continue to monitor the status of these students through IPERC,” Barrett said. “No further visits are scheduled at this time.”

He said the district’s school nurses and health personnel continue to receive updates and guidance on the coronavirus and they have put together information residents may find helpful.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis; however, this is more common in infants, people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems and with older adults. 

If anyone is experiencing symptoms, Barrett said, it is recommended he or she contact their healthcare provider, especially if they have traveled in recent months or have been in contact with someone who has recently traveled.

In his letter to district residents, he said, symptoms of coronavirus are similar to those of the common cold and may include runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever and cough.

“Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools is committed to the health and safety of our students,” Barrett said. "We will continue to consult with the CDC and IPERC for further updates as they become available."