The Shanghai campus of a school based in Roanoke County has been temporarily shuttered amid the widening response to the coronavirus.
North Cross School, which opened its overseas branch in 2015, was slated to welcome back its Chinese students this month after the long holiday for Lunar New Year, but that return date was pushed back at the direction of the government.
The move was part of a larger ramp-up of efforts by Chinese leaders to contain the viral outbreak. Factories, schools and other gathering spots — in some cases, whole cities — were shut down.
North Cross’ international school, which now serves about 250 students, is about 600 miles from the Hubei Province where the virus was centered, and no illness has been reported among its students or staff.
But Christian Proctor, North Cross’ head of school, said he understood the need for caution. The school is closely watching reports about the virus, including daily briefings from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization, which has teams on the ground.
“It’s something we continue to monitor on a daily basis,” Proctor said.
The Shanghai branch of North Cross is a boarding school that has attracted enrollees from across the region in China. Students live on campus, but students and staff had already scattered back to their homes for the holiday break when the government made its announcement.
The school has set up online classes to allow coursework to continue during this holding period. Zoom, a video conferencing service, gave the school a free subscription to help teachers continue to connect with students.
“That’s actually worked out surprisingly well,” said Proctor, adding that the school appreciated Zoom’s help. “It’s not ideal, but it’s the best we can do right now given the situation.”
The North Cross-Xinhe School serves grades nine through 12. Students work through North Cross’ curriculum and graduate with North Cross-branded diplomas.
Many aim to attend a U.S. university after graduation.
The program was started five years ago in partnership with Xinhe Middle School. In China, U.S. high school equivalents are referred to as middle schools.
It’s unclear when students will be able to return to the campus. The last target date given by the government was March 1, Proctor said, but it’s unlikely the go-ahead will be given by then.
The campus will remain closed until the government feels it’s safe to reopen, he said.
North Cross also hosts international students who study at its Roanoke flagship.
Students who are from Asia will stay in Roanoke over spring break rather than travel home, Proctor said.
There is no cause for concern among the locally based students, he added. Plans for summer programs that would typically include new international students will be reevaluated based on conditions at the time.
“We’ll continue to watch it closely,” Proctor said.
The coronavirus, to date, has infected nearly 80,000 people in more than three dozen countries. The rate of new cases in China, where the virus was first documented, has been steadily dropping, but new clusters have been seen recently in Iran, South Korea and Italy.