Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all schools in the state to remain closed through the end of the academic year and certain non-essential businesses to close.
“School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads, and to protect the capacity of our healthcare systems,” Northam said.
All schools public and private are to stay closed at least through the end of the academic year. As a result, Arlington Public Schools says it is now working on a plan for what to do going forward, while awaiting further guidance from the state Dept. of Education.
Earlier Monday, APS told parents that it would start to introduce new instructional material to middle and high school students this week.
Elementary teachers will not introduce new content within the timeframe that schools are currently set to be closed. Secondary teachers may begin introducing new content the week of March 23. We recognize that all students do not have the same ability to regularly access and attend to learning new skills or content while at home. Secondary teachers who are introducing new content are mindful of the opportunity gap that this is likely to create and will plan strategies to address it.
While virtual learning can never replace classroom instruction, teachers are providing instructional activities meant to help students maintain their skills and knowledge and prepare for what’s coming next. We understand this comes with both challenges and perks as adults and students work to establish new routines.
Given the extended school closures, state officials are going to with localities on a plan to provide childcare to essential workers, like those who work in healthcare, Northam said.
Northam also announced today that, as of just before midnight on Tuesday, he was ordering certain non-essential businesses closed. That includes recreational and entertainment businesses, like bowling alleys, as well as personal care services that can’t social distance, like barber shops and salons.
Restaurants will only be able to remain open for carryout, curbside pickup, and delivery, Northam said, finally providing the state backing to what Arlington County leaders had been calling for since last week.
The business restrictions will be in effect for at least 30 days, Northam announced.
“We do not make these decisions lightly,” the governor said. “But COVID-19 is serious and we must act.”
“We’re acting judiciously and with full regard to the consequences,” Northam added. “Our priority is to save lives. We have a health crisis, and we have an economic crisis, but the sooner we can get this health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover.”
Among the businesses deemed essential, which will be able to stay open, are grocery stores, pharmacies and banks. Construction activities will be allowed to continue, and “construction product retail stores” can stay open, the governor said. Virginia ABC liquor stores will also stay open.
Northam did not order churches and other houses of worship closed, but he encouraged them to practice social distancing.
Virginia will soon be launching a statewide public information campaign to encourage social distancing, which will include messages on highway signs. The message to residents, Northam said, is one of shared sacrifice.
“I ask every Virginian to stand with me as we fight this battle,” he said. “Do your part and stay in when you can, and social distance and wash your hands when you must go out for supplies.”
“I know the next several weeks and several months will be difficult, they will require everyone to change the way we live and interact with each other,” Northam added. “We have not been called upon to sacrifice like this in many, many years, but I’m calling upon you to do just that. We must put aside what we want and replace it with what we need. This will change every part of our life.”
The full email from Arlington Public Schools to families, following the governor’s announcement, is below.
Dear APS Families, Staff, and Community,
Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced this afternoon at his press conference that all public schools in the Commonwealth will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. This is not the news we were hoping for or expecting, but together we will get through this.
It was only 10 days ago that we announced our closure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Unfortunately, since that time, the spread of the virus has only grown.
Today’s’ announcement by the Governor will obviously impact our work going forward. Our administrative teams have already begun the conversation of what the remainder of the 2020 school year will look like. We all have questions and we are working diligently internally and with the Virginia Department of Education to get the answers. As we did with the first closure, we will share our plans with you very soon.
For now, we will continue to provide the continuity of learning plans in place through Canvas, Seesaw and other platforms through April 3. As mentioned in our School Talk this morning, we will be honoring Spring Break and no new assignments will be issued during that week. We will soon announce plans for programming for the weeks following Spring Break.
It is unfortunate it has come to this, but all of us, school administrators, staff, and parents, want the same outcome –keeping our kids and community safe. Give yourselves a moment to process and help your students as they hear this information for the first time. Support each other.
Thank you for your continued understanding, patience, and gracious space to work through this challenging time. We truly are in this together. APS will continue to keep you informed as additional decisions are made for the remainder of the year.
Cintia Z. Johnson
Arlington Public Schools