Gov. Jared Polis ordered a four-week closure of all public and private schools across Colorado on Wednesday, escalating the state’s fight to limit the spread of the new coronavirus through close contact.
The governor’s executive order suspends all in-person learning from Monday through April 17, and directs Colorado school and charter districts to make every effort to provide alternative learning opportunities while taking their communities’ needs into account.
Polis also adopted guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, including sporting events, concerts, parades, fairs, church gatherings and more.
“We are acting boldly and swiftly together to protect the health and safety of all Coloradans,” Polis said in a statement. “The science and data tells us this will get worse before it gets better. We are in this together and the state is taking the necessary actions to slow the spread of this disease.”
Polis’s order also directs the commissioner of education to issue guidance supporting school systems as they help families access alternative learning, according to a state news release.
“Protecting the health of all Coloradans is our top priority, and moving to online learning and other ways to support learning at home is absolutely the right thing to do,” Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said. “We know school leaders, educators and families will have a lot of questions about how to support their students’ learning at home during this unprecedented time.”
Polis already has ordered the closure of the state’s downhill ski resorts as well as bars, gyms, theaters and casinos, and limited restaurants to only serving take-out and delivery orders. Coloradans have been urged to avoid crowds and, when possible, stay home.
The governor’s order on Wednesday also extended the closure of ski areas through April 6.
At a Wednesday morning news conference, Polis laid the foundation for Wednesday’s hard closure, telling the public: “While it’s possible that schools may return this year, it’s increasingly unlikely.”
Scores of school districts across the state already shuttered, choosing to extend existing spring breaks to align with social distancing rules, and some using the break to put together an impromptu switch to remote learning.
Jeffco Public Schools was on its second day of remote learning Wednesday, while Denver Public Schools took the week to figure out how to provide an equitable education to students without resources such as computers or internet access at home.
With Xfinity offering free wifi to families for the time being, DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said earlier in the week that officials were looking into providing education through smartphones, paper worksheets and packets, or reaching out to see if public access television could be used to teach kids stuck at home.
On Tuesday, Colorado’s teachers union called on the state to mandate the closure of all schools to reduce the risk of spreading the highly contagious virus.
State testing and accountability measures for K-12 schools were also canceled on Tuesday with the intention of allowing instructors to focus on teaching their students in a drastically different environment and medium.
Before the governor’s mandate, Superintendent Rick Lovato of East Otero School District in La Junta said he couldn’t commit to online learning just yet as the southeastern Colorado district “wasn’t an online school system.”
The state is working on guidance to support schools and students that will be available soon, the state’s news release said.
This content was originally published here.