Wolf orders all Pa. schools, public and private, shuttered until school year’s end

    (*Updated at 11:39 a.m., with information about early childhood programs)

    Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all schools, public and private, to close for the rest of the school year Thursday.

    The order comes as Wolf continues containment efforts of COVID- 19.

    “We must continue our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus during this national crisis,” Wolf said in a statement Thursday. “This was not an easy decision but closing schools until the end of the academic year is in the best interest of our students, school employees and families.”

    In a Twitter post, Wolf said that the shutdown “doesn’t mean that learning is over,” in the state. 

    Under the order, all public K-12 schools, brick-and-mortar, cyber-charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units may not open.

    Department of Education-run early learning programs, such as Pre-K counts and Head Start, will also remain closed.

    The order does not affect school districts’ distance learning efforts. However, there is no requirement in state law that districts must offer online classes to students.

    In a March 25 call with reporters, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said the state has survey data studying the digital divide among student households, which tracks, among other things, how many families have internet access through computers or mobile phones. The Education Department has not yet fulfilled the Capital-Star’s request for that data.

    Wolf’s order also might not affect districts’ summer programs, which could restart “under the state’s directive” after the 2019-20 academic year ends, according to the release.

    The order will also apply to colleges and universities, which may not reopen until Wolf lifts his “life-sustaining business” order. That order is, as of right now, indefinite.

    Last month, the General Assembly waived a requirement that district’s provide 180 days of instruction. Legislators also guaranteed that teachers and other school staff would be paid for the rest of the year, with or without classes.

    The closures could present child care problems for Pennsylvania families whose parents are essential workers. Many child care centers are included in Wolf’s March 19 business shutdown order.

    However, family child care homes and group child care homes operating inside a residence can continue to operate throughout the shutdown order.

    A list on the state’s website shows 608 centers open across the commonwealth. Check the list here.