Fourteen states are closing all their public schools, as are several large urban districts — including Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest, and Washington, D.C.
District of Columbia schools will be closed starting Monday through March 31, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday. Schools plan to resume normal operations April 1. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced Friday that all schools in his state will close indefinitely, WSAZ-TV reported.
As of Friday evening, states that had announced school closures were Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Utah, West Virginia and Washington state.
Closing schools is a growing trend across the country as state education officials look to contain the spreading coronavirus through social distancing measures, but the efforts present complications for families who rely on public education for food access and child care.
State officials who had previously seemed reluctant to shutter schools changed course Friday, when a cascade of states began announcing closures.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer (D) said Thursday he did not plan to close schools. But, he said during a news conference Friday, his thinking changed after contemplating new information that came in overnight and through the day. He also said he had been thinking about state officials’ decision to limit large gatherings.
“I really came to the conclusion that we’re telling adults, essentially, don’t gather in large groups, but we’re telling kids that you can bump up against each other in a hallway, even if you might not have an assembly,” he said.
Oregon had worked hard to keep schools open, but student absences and workforce issues there had made it “impossible to functionally operate schools,” said Gov. Kate Brown (D). Earlier this week, she banned gatherings of more than 250 people, another social distancing rule being adopted across the country.
An increasing number of cities and other localities, including Boston, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento, have made similar moves. Kentucky stopped short of a mandatory order but recommended that all schools, both public and private, halt in-person classes. Florida also provided “strong recommendations” that schools extend spring break.
In all, at least 46,000 schools were closed, scheduled to close or had closed and reopened as of Friday evening, according to Education Week, with at least 26 million students affected.