"The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving quickly. We are not waiting to take the measures needed to contain it," Inslee announced. "Today, I am expanding my school closure to order all K-12 schools statewide."
The closure will last until Friday, April 24, at least. Inslee says "critical services" will continue during closures. That includes nutrition assistance and child care for, "particularly for health care workers, emergency personnel and low-income families."
The announcement comes hours after the Spokane Regional Health District said it wasn't recommending closing schools as of yet. Inslee, however, says in a press conference that the measures were needed to confront "clear and present danger" that coronavirus presents to the state.
The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving quickly. We are not waiting to take the measures needed to contain it.— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 13, 2020
Today, I am expanding my school closure order to all K-12 schools statewide. They will close by Tuesday, March 17 and will remain closed through at least Friday, April 24. pic.twitter.com/bEfkjTx0QA
Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction, says he'd had conversations with district superintendents in the last day who have reported challenges with student attendance even in areas where school wasn't already closed. The statewide closure gives the state the opportunity to operate as "one unit" in the approach to K-12 schools, he says. He adds that he challenges district to keep offering essential services like food and child care.
"Our work is moving forward," Reykdal says. "It just looks differently."
Following the announcement, Spokane Public Schools sent out a letter to families saying that "our focus is supporting students and families during the period of time schools are closed."
Spokane Public Schools says it is prepared to provide child care for "parents working in health care roles, first responders, and vulnerable populations. We will also be providing meals to all SPS students."
The district will also offer students resources so they can learn at home, including digital tools and materials that teachers may send to students.
"The heart of Spokane is care we show towards each other as a community," the district statement says. "During this time our partnerships and connections are more important than ever as we bond together to navigate the days ahead."