Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency yesterday in response to the coronavirus outbreak and today announced that all schools in Virginia will be closed for at least two weeks. Schools will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27 and localities have the authority to potentially extend the length of time their schools will be closed.
“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “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. This is a fluid and fast-changing situation. We will do everything possible to ensure that students who rely on school nutrition programs continue to have access to meals, and that the disruption to academics is as minimal as possible.”
The good news is officials realize this could potentially impact families who depend on receiving free and reduced price meals during the school day and the Department of Social Services is taking steps to ensure students still have access to these meals. In a statement announcing that Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed through April 10, for instance, the school system highlighted that both breakfast and lunch will be available for students.
There are currently five sites for students to pick up meals, but that list is likely to expand as it could be difficult for students to travel to schools outside of their normal district. Not only will these meals be free for students, but adult meals will be available for the low cost of two dollars. Just today, FCPS announced they served over 1,500 meals at the five locations since schools were closed.
Of course, this development comes after many colleges and universities have closed their campuses and will be holding online courses. UVA, for example, is encouraging students who live on campus to return home, has canceled in person classes, and will begin holding online classes on Thursday in a manner that will also allow staff to work remotely.
Over time, this could present an interesting dilemma for some families as parents have to deal with an unexpected need for childcare. Many employers have fortunately implemented remote work policies that could prove beneficial, but this won’t be feasible for all workplaces. Medical professionals, for instance, will still have to present at their facilities in order to treat patients and many are expressing concern about who will care for their children while they’re working.
According to Fairfax County, they evaluating how to deal with SACC programs for families that already utilize the program, but these sites will be closed for the next two weeks and they will only operate at consolidated sites for the week of March 30. There hasn’t been much discussion about how local families who don’t take advantage of SACC will be able to move forward.
Despite all the issues that are coming up as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s still important that communities are taking steps to help slow the spread of the pandemic. For those who are interested in receiving local updates on the situation from Fairfax County, you can text FFXCOVID to 888777.