MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has ordered all public and private schools in the state to close by next Wednesday, March 18.
Cropped Photo: eflon / Flickr / CC BY 2.0/MGN
The order is in effect at least through April 6.
School districts have the option to close before March 18. The Green Bay Area Catholic Education system (GRACE) announced Thursday it would be closed for at least 2 weeks, and Denmark schools announced plans to close Monday and Tuesday to prepare teachers for moving lessons online.
Gov. Evers says his decision wasn't made lightly. "Keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue to work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin," he wrote.
"We know schools are thinking about the anticipated academic and economic impacts, and unintended impacts, of these decisions and are planning for ways to provide critical supports to kids and families, such as food and security," reads part of a statement from State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor.
Today, I directed @DHSWI to issue an agency order mandating the closure of all K-12 Wisconsin schools, public and private, as part of our efforts to respond to and contain the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) March 13, 2020
The mandated closure will begin on Wednesday, March 18th, to give school districts ample time to make plans for kids, families, educators, and staff, but school districts may choose to close earlier than Wednesday.— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) March 13, 2020
The Department of Health Services said the decisions being made are to protect everyone in the state but especially the most vulnerable.
"We understand everyone will be impacted by this and have their lives disrupted, but we need to do this to protect our families and Wisconsin from this outbreak. Extraordinary measures like closing schools, restricting mass gatherings, and cancelling travel will slow the spread of the disease and help our health care system so those affected can get the care they need," read a DHS statement.
GRACE specifically mentioned students returning from spring break trips, who might have picked up the coronavirus during their travel, as a reason for moving lessons to online platforms and email for at least two weeks (see related story).
Wisconsin has 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Friday afternoon. The state's first confirmed COVID-19 patient, who was diagnosed in early February after a trip to China, has fully recovered.
Complete Statement from the Governor's Office provided to Action 2 News:
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. 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.
“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,” said Gov. Evers.
Earlier today, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 19 cases, including one individual who has recovered.
“Kids and families across Wisconsin often depend on our schools to access food and care,” Gov. Evers continued. “We are going to continue working to do everything we can to ensure kids and families have the resources and support they need while schools are closed.”
On Thursday, March 12th, the governor signed an executive order that directs DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to incidences of COVID-19. It allows the Department to purchase, store, or distribute appropriate medications, regardless of insurance or other health coverage, as needed to respond to the emergency. It also authorizes state funds to support local health departments with costs related to isolation and quarantine, as well as the use of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Decisions about the implementation of other community measures will be made by state and local officials based on CDC and DHS guidance, as well as the scope of the outbreak.
People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:
• Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
• Covering coughs and sneezes;
• Avoiding touching your face;
• Staying home when sick.
Recently DHS released new guidance for mass gatherings and travel, which can be found at the DHS website linked below.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and we encourage you and the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.
Complete statement from State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor provided to Action 2 News
"The safety and health of our students, educators, and families remain of the highest importance. When considering the length of school closures, we are asking our local school districts and local health departments to be in close coordination in making these decisions.
"We know schools are thinking about the anticipated academic and economic impacts, and unintended impacts of these decisions, and are planning for ways to provide critical supports to kids and families, such as food and security.
"The DPI remains in constant communication with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Department of Administration as we continue monitoring this evolving situation. We are committed to offering our continuous support to students and educators."