Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced plans late on March 12 to close all kindergarten through 12th grade schools in Oregon, beginning Monday and ending April 1, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The second of those weeks is spring break in many districts.
The announcement, which is another dramatic change in a swiftly escalating pandemic, has been expected since earlier today. As recently as Wednesday, Brown called closing schools "a last resort."
The governor argued tonight it had become necessary step, even as it comes at a cost.
"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," said Brown in a statement. "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."
That last part is noteworthy: Brown emphasized the limits of what school closings can accomplish and did not argue that closures would help slow the spread of the disease, despite that being a leading argument for the decision.
The governor cautioned against elderly or at-risk people being left in charge of kids, thus increasing their own risks. She also asked schools to continue to makes meals while classes are not in session, so that low-income families would have a source of food.
Districts were also asked to plan to increase cleaning once kids are slated to return in April.
Brown's came after both Maryland and Ohio announced the closing of their school. Also, two districts in Tigard-Tualatin and Lake Oswego had already decided to close their schools.
Multiple Portland private schools also already had announced closures.
And Brown faced pressure from Multnomah County elected officials, who told the Portland Tribune that they had asked for the school closing for public health reasons.
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran cited high rates of transmission among kids and told the Tribune: "If our systems are overwhelmed, then more people die."
Colt Gill, Director of the Oregon Department of Education, said in a statement that the state will reassess in late March whether to reopen on April 1.