PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown has announced that all schools in Oregon will be closed beginning Monday, March 16, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The closure will continue through March 31. Spring break across the state is scheduled for the week of March 23-27. The decision to reopen schools on April 1 will be re-evaluated during the closure.
The governor's announcement comes hours after two Portland-area school districts, Tigard-Tualatin and Lake Oswego, canceled classes.
The governor released the following statement:
“Schools are critical institutions that provide important services for all our students, but especially our most vulnerable, and during this crisis I have worked hard to ensure those critical services continue. So many of our families depend on school in order for parents to go to their jobs, and for students to access health care and receive nutrition assistance.
“However, I have heard from superintendents, school board members, teachers, parents, and students that it has now become impossible to functionally operate schools due to workforce issues and student absences. Schools are experiencing critical shortages in staff, and superintendents are concerned for school personnel who are at elevated risk such as those over age 60 and those with underlying medical issues.
“I want to be very clear: sending Oregon children home will not stop the spread of the coronavirus. While children are home, when at all possible, they should not be in the care of older adults or those with underlying health issues that are most at-risk from COVID-19.
"This is a trying time for our community and I am reluctant to increase the burden on families who are already struggling to adapt to and stay healthy during this crisis. However, we are left with little choice in light of school districts’ staff capacity and operational concerns. I want to thank all of the teachers and school employees who have worked hard to keep our schools open until now.”
(Lincoln High School parents react to mandatory school closing.)
Gov. Brown has directed the following steps take place during the closure.
- School districts develop plans for returning to school that accommodate ongoing impacts of coronavirus. Staff should utilize the final two days of March to finalize plans for operating schools under updated measures, with students expected to return on Wednesday, April 1.
- Districts develop plans to continue nutrition services during the closure.
- The Oregon Department of Education examines the impact the closure will have on instructional time.
- School districts ensure adequate cleaning supplies for increased cleaning protocols following the closure.
- The Early Learning Division supports child care programs and works to identify resources to support child care needs for our most vulnerable families, as well as health care professionals and first responders.
Earlier on Thursday, Brown announced a statewide ban on gatherings of 250 or more people. The governor also said schools should cancel all non-essential school-associated gatherings, like group parent meetings, field trips and competitions.
Thirty people across 11 counties have tested positive for COVID-19 in Oregon. No deaths have been reported.