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Coronavirus Closes Schools Statewide

empty classroom
Florida's public schools will be closed through March 27 because of the coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak has led the Florida Department of Education to close all public schools across the state through March 27.

“Keeping students healthy and safe is my number one priority, and that is why we are recommending that districts follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for Florida,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Friday afternoon.

Schools that are not on spring break at that time are scheduled to reopen on March 30.

The Department of Education also announced a delay to the start of state testing by at least two weeks.

In most school districts, the announcement includes the cancelling of all extracurricular activities and thorough cleanings of schools.

Since Florida's school districts and public charter schools have different schedules, the Department of Education released recommendations for each district.

Private schools in the Tampa Bay region also are closing.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg announced Friday that it is closing all of its Catholic Schools and Early Childhood center buildings through March 20.

Monday and Tuesday had already been scheduled as days off for students. Virtual learning will be conducted March 18 through 20.

The Diocese includes 47 Catholic Schools and Early Childhood Centers, with 13,000 students in five counties.

Local school districts and the state are making an effort to make sure children who depend on schools for their meals don’t go hungry during the closure.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, whose office administers the National School Lunch Program, issued a statement Friday afternoon.

"For millions of Florida’s children, schools meals are the only meals they can count on. We are working closely with school districts to ensure that students have access to healthy, nutritious meals while schools are closed due to COVID-19,” Fried said. “We are working with the USDA on authority to provide schools with flexible options to make school meals available.”

It’s up to the individual school districts to determine if and how they’d serve meals to students during the closure. Fried is encouraging districts to keep providing meals.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the National School Lunch Program fed nearly three million students during the 2018-19 school year. Around 70 percent of them qualified for free or reduce lunches.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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