Wolf orders Pa. public schools closed for two weeks in response to coronavirus

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Schools across the commonwealth will close for two weeks under a new order from Gov. Tom Wolf to contain the spread of COVID-19.

All 500 school districts will be shuttered for 10 business days, until March 30. At the end of the period, Wolf will decide whether to extend the closures, or reopen schools.

“We understand that these are trying times and recognize the impact of the coronavirus on our students and communities,” Wolf said in a statement. “First and foremost, my top priority as governor – and that of our education leaders – must be to ensure the health and safety of our students and school communities.”

The new executive directive comes a day after Wolf ordered the two-week shutdown of  schools, as well as community centers and entertainment venues, in Montgomery County, which has been hard hit by the virus.

Schools will not be penalized if they miss the 180 days of instruction required under state law.

According to state Department of Education data, there were 1.7 million students enrolled in Pennsylvania public schools during the 2018-19 school year. These children and teens will now be staying home.

Pennsylvania law does not require employers to offer their workers paid sick days or family leave.

When he announced the closings in Montgomery County on Thursday, Wolf said that his administration was in talks with the Republican-controlled General Assembly to provide financial assistance to those affected by the closings.

“We recognize that there will be a requirement for funding and financial resources, and everyone understands that’s coming,” Wolf said Thursday.

State education officials also received a waiver Friday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows them to serve free and reduced-price meals to school children in the event of unexpected school closings, according to the release.

Fifty-four percent of Pennsylvania’s public school students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch, state Department of Education data show.