Northam orders all schools to close for at least two weeks

School closures in the WALB viewing area.
School closures in the WALB viewing area.(Source: WALB)
Updated: Mar. 13, 2020 at 2:37 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam has ordered all Virginia K-12 schools to close for at least two weeks as the outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread.

All schools will be closed from Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 27, at a minimum.

“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “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.”

Localities will still decide specific staffing decisions to ensure students maintain continuity of services or learning.

Virginia Department of Education officials are working closely with schools to make sure students who are on free or reduced lunch still have access to those programs.

“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 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.”

School officials are also working to minimize disruptions to learning.

“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,” said Dr. James Lane, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “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.”

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