Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks, due to the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth.
Schools will close starting on Monday, March 16, through at least March 27. Localities will be able to make their own staffing decisions to ensure students continue receiving instruction, while protecting the health of school faculty members and staff. Northam declared a state of emergency in the commonwealth Thursday. Confirmed coronavirus cases in Virginia jumped to 30 on Friday, up from 17 the day before.
“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” Northam said in a statement. “I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus. This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible.”
Virginia Department of Education officials are working with local school systems and the Department of Social Services to make sure that qualifying students can continue to access free or reduced lunch programs during the closures.
“We recognize this decision places burdens on many of our parents and families, especially for those who rely on school nutrition programs for access to healthy food for their children,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “However, we believe closing Virginia schools is in the Commonwealth’s best interest as we seek to stop the spread of COVID-19. Virginia will continue to explore and implement innovative approaches to provide meals to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch during this closure.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane said the Department of Education will also be working to minimize disruptions to student instruction.
“The Department of Education is working closely with divisions to minimize disruptions to our students’ academic development by encouraging schools to provide students and families with educational resources throughout this time,” Lane said. “We are committed to help divisions address all the implications of these closures and will seek to provide each division with maximum flexibility to address local needs as they arise, especially as it relates to make-up days.”