UPDATE: The statewide school closure announced today begins at 5 pm on Wednesday, March 18, according to an updated announcement from the state Department of Health Services.
Gov. Tony Evers today directed Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue an agency order mandating the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, as part of the state’s efforts to respond to and contain the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, according to a press release. A copy of DHS Secretary-designee Palm’s order can be found here.
“The mandated closure will begin on Wednesday, March 18th, in order to give school districts ample time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff. School districts, particularly those in counties with reported cases of COVID-19, may choose to close earlier than Wednesday. The anticipated reopening date is April 6, 2020; however, the reopening date is subject to change pending further information,” the press release reads.
“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers said in the statement.
Madison Metropolitan School District Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore said there would be no required instruction during the closure, but that schools would provide books and other enrichment resources for students during the time off, including online resources. Spectrum has offered to provide free internet access for 60 days for households that aren’t currently connected.
Belmore said there are no known cases of coronavirus infection in the student or school staff population at this point.
Madison Metropolitan School District Building Services Executive Director Chad Wiese said the district has already identified 10 sites around the city to provide breakfast and lunch for students.
“It will be very similar to what we do every summer,” he said.
Belmore said she is meeting with Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway over the weekend and hopes to discuss accommodations to provide care for children of people who need to work.
Teachers and staff will be paid in accordance with their contracts, Belmore said. It is not yet clear whether the instructional time will be made up in summer, Belmore said, adding that a lot depends on how long the closure lasts.
“We know this is just going to be really hard for everyone,” Belmore said. “This has been really a team effort. It’s really brought our community together in a way to say we just have to put our families and our kids right at the center of this and do everything we can that is best for them and to support them.”
Belmore said it’s not yet been decided what will happen with spring events like prom and graduation.
“We have a long list of things to get to yet,” Belmore said.
Madison schools announced earlier that it would move spring break from March 30 to March 23 and add two staff-only days beginning March 19.