VIRGINIA, USA — Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that he was ordering all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks amid growing coronavirus concerns.
Schools will remain closed from March 16 through March 27, and then the state will reassess closure needs. Localities will maintain authority over specific staffing decisions to ensure students maintain continuity of services or learning, while protecting the public health of teachers and staff.
"We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19, Northam said. "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."
On Thursday, Maryland's Governor Larry Hogan also closed all Maryland public schools from March 16- March 27. He aid after the schools reopen, Maryland will use spring break to make up for the missed days. Spring break was scheduled to take place April 6-13, but instead, students will be expected to be in school to make up for some of the lost days.
Northam said the commonwealth will work on a plan to ensure that all students who rely on free or reduced lunches will have access to meals while schools are closed. The Department of Education will issue guidance and memos to superintendents across the Commonwealth to provide specifics about the continuity of education, school nutrition, and updated public health guidelines.
Northam declared a state of emergency for Virginia on Thursday and halted specially-scheduled state events and conferences for 30 days, and banned out-of-state travel for state employees, with allowances for individuals in border communities.