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Three campuses of Boston’s Eliot School to be closed because of coronavirus case

A 2018 recess at the DeFilippo Playground on Prince Street in the North End for students from the Eliot School.
A 2018 recess at the DeFilippo Playground on Prince Street in the North End for students from the Eliot School.David L. Ryan

Authorities are closing the three North End campuses of the Eliot K-8 Innovation School for a week starting Thursday because of a presumptive positive case of coronavirus in a “non-student member of the school community,” Boston Public Schools said in a series of tweets Wednesday night.

The school district is encouraging everyone “who has been physically inside one of three Eliot Buildings to practice social distances and avoid public places until” March 20.

The district plans to re-open all three campuses on March 19. All three campuses are in the city’s North End; the “lower school,” for kindergarten and the 1st grade, is at 16 Charter St.;the “intermediate school” for grades 2 through 4, is located at 173 Salem St., and the “upper school," for grades 5 through 8, is at 585 Commercial St.

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The district said it made the decision to close the school out of “an abundance of caution” and at the recommendation at the city’s public health commission. City officials are “working on an ongoing basis to assess risk and follow up with all known contacts of this individual,” the school district said.

Speaking to media outside City Hall Wednesday night, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he was not ready to cancel school district-wide, while adding that officials were planning for that possibility.

“I don’t think we’re at that point here, yet,” he said.

Officials did not identify the person who had the presumptive coronavirus case that prompted Eliot’s closure, other than to say the person was not a teacher.

“It was somebody who came into the school,” said Walsh.

Schools superintendent Brenda Cassellius told media that the closure will allow staff to go into the school and “do the deep cleaning that’s needed.” She said the person had been in the school’s lower campus, but noted that teachers move between the three campuses.

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“The safety of our students is our absolute top priority," she said.

Asked where the person may have contracted coronavirus, Marty Martinez, the city’s chief of health and human services, said “I can tell you that we believe it’s not an example of community spread, we believe it’s tied to scenarios around travel.”

Martinez said that city believes the person found out that they tested positive on Wednesday.

The district is encouraging anyone associated with the school who develops fever, cough, or shortness of breath, to contact their primary care provider, the city’s public health commission, or the mayor’s health line at 617-534-5050.

The Eliot School serves 730 students, according to Cassellius. The Eliot touts itself as Boston’s oldest continuously-run school, and says it educated Revolutionary War-era patriots Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.

“[T]he Eliot has a rich past that began with its opening as the North Writing School in 1713,” states the school’s website.

Walsh said during a CNN interview on Wednesday that he was inviting all schools, including parochial schools, to a meeting Thursday night.

He also noted that 80 percent of city students are from low-income communities and rely on free or subsidized lunches, and said he wanted “to make sure have a plan to get the food to those kids.”

Walsh also said the city is looking at how to implement online learning if needed, noting that the high school level has the “potential” for it, but added that it would be “a little more difficult” for lower grades.

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As of Wednesday evening, Massachusetts coronavirus cases totaled 95, with 445 people in self-quarantine. The 95 cases included 77 people who were infected in connection with a Biogen company meeting in late February.

In Boston, as of Wednesday night, there was one confirmed case of Covid-19 and 18 presumptive positive cases, for a total of 19 cases.

Jaclyn Reiss of Globe staff contributed to this report.




Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.