On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that all K-12 schools in his state would be closed through “at least” the current academic year as the state increases measures to stem the spread of coronavirus. Schools in Virginia had already been out of session as part of a two-week long closure announced on March 13, which was set to expire this Friday.
This week, school leaders in the state were discussing options for how students would be able to retrieve assignments and finish their courses for the year.
The announcement came at a time when the state was already counting 254 coronavirus cases and six deaths. It was part of a series of measures that are aimed at controlling the disease within the state. Northam also signed an executive order closing many businesses for at least the next 30 days. He also announced that all restaurants must stop offering dine-in service, although delivery, drive-through, and carryout will still be permitted.
While non-essential stores may remain open for business, they may only allow 10 customers inside at a time and are required to stick to social distancing in addition to increasing their sanitization procedures. Every recreational and entertainment business in the state will be forced to close, including gyms, theaters and bowling alleys, along with personal care services that are unable to stick to social distancing guidelines, such as spas, massage parlors and hair salons.
He admitted the school closure would have a big effect on families with small children while highlighting the need for essential workers to have childcare services, urging communities to keep their daycare centers open. It’s estimated that there are 80,000 children of health care providers and first responders in the state.
Virginia isn’t the only place seeing school closures; 46 states have closed schools so far, which is impacting more than 54.5 million students.
The first state to announce a closure through the end of the year was Kansas, when governor Laura Kelly announced such a move last week. Schools are currently closed indefinitely in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom has stated that they likely will not open for the remainder of the school year.
In Florida, all remaining testing was canceled last week for the rest of the year, with Governor Ron DeSantis announcing that grades simply will not be calculated there. Instead, he said the graduation requirements are going to be evaluated without testing, and parents will be given the option to have their child repeat the same grade in the school year to come.
In North Carolina, meanwhile, schools have been ordered closed through May 15, and it’s possible this could be extended further. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced earlier this week that the school closures in his state that were set to expire on Friday will instead stay closed through April 6 and possibly even longer.
When all of the orders issued by the various states that have been announced so far go into effect on Wednesday, it is believed that roughly 39 percent of the nation’s population will be under this type of order.
These school closures are dramatic measures that will be especially disappointing for many high school seniors, but it is far from an overreaction. The CDC has stated that school closures of eight weeks or longer could have a bigger effect on stemming coronavirus spread than closures of just two to four weeks. And with cases of coronavirus continuing to rise across the country, it is essential to do everything within our power to protect public health as the world navigates this devastating pandemic.
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