Kansas became the first state on Wednesday to cancel school for the remainder of the current academic year over the coronavirus pandemic, while officials in other places are preparing for the possibility.
“This situation has evolved rapidly and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said. “The reality of this pandemic is that it cannot be controlled statewide if school buildings return to normal operations, or if they respond to inconsistently within our local communities.”
On Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that school buildings across the state must be closed for the duration of this school year for the purpose of general student and staff attendance. However, learning will continue for Kansas students. https://t.co/MbQqPbg6tl #ksed pic.twitter.com/7CcbkTK6o0
— KS Dept of Education (@ksdehq) March 17, 2020
“The steps we’re announcing today will create the space we need at the state level… so that we can get ahead of this threat and limit its long term impact,” Kelly said, according to KSNT.
The move is the first wide scale closure through the 2019-20 school year, which typically ends in Kansas in late May, but it likely won’t be the last, Education Week reports.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio closed down the city’s schools this week with hopes of re-opening next month, though he acknowledged the shutdown could last far longer, according to Politico.
“Our first attempt to reopen public schools will be Monday, April 20,” de Blasio said. “We may not have the opportunity to reopen them in this full school year.”
In Arizona, lawmakers are also preparing for the same scenario.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey closed all schools in the state through March 27, and lawmakers are working on legislation that would require districts to develop alternative ways of delivering instruction, from online learning to delivering education packets and food by bus.
The legislation provides funding for bus deliveries, suspends a state law mandating a 180-day school year, adjusts financial reporting requirements, addresses student testing requirements, and other measures to prepare for an extended statewide closure, ABC 15 reports.
Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Allen and other lawmakers told the news site there’s a strong possibility schools won’t reopen this year.
“It’s hard to predict. Things change every day,” Allen said. “We just wanted to be prepared.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has not issued a statewide directive to shut down schools, also said Tuesday that many of the state’s schools may not reopen this year to combat coronavirus outbreaks.
The Mercury News reports:
More than 98 percent of California’s student body — about 6.1 million students — have had their classes cancelled so far, Newsom said. While many school districts have only announced closures for a few weeks, Newsom said it was unlikely that most would open again before their summer breaks in May or June.
“Don’t anticipate schools are going to open up in a week,” he said in a press conference at the state’s emergency headquarters. “It’s unlikely that many of these schools — few if any — will open before the summer break.”
It’s a similar situation in Texas.
“Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told school superintendents and lawmakers Sunday to be prepared for long-term school district closures, potentially through the end of the school year, especially in areas where the new coronavirus has spread,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Education Week is tracking the school closures nationwide, which have now reached virtually every state.
“As of March 18, 2020, 7:20 p.m. ET: 39 states have decided to close schools. Combined with district closures in other states, at least 92,000 U.S. public and private schools are closed, are scheduled to close, or were closed and later reopened, affecting at least 42.1 million school students,” according to the site.
“There are 98,277 public schools and 34,576 private schools in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Those schools educate almost 50.8 million public school students and 5.8 million private school students.”