Northam cancels school year, orders some businesses closed

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam looks backward during a press conference in Richmond, Va. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

Virginia schools will be closed for the rest of the year, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered Monday.

Northam’s order applies to all K-12 schools in the state, both public and private, and comes as the coronavirus continues to spread in Virginia. Richmond-area school districts had already announced that schools would be closed until at least April 13.

Virginia joins Kansas in announcing that schools will be closed for the rest of the year. All but four states - Idaho, Nebraska, Iowa and Maine - are under mandated school closures, according to Education Week.

"As disruptive as this will be for students, families and staff, I believe it's the right decision given the healthcare crisis we're facing," Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said. "I applaud the Governor for taking this bold step now."

Northam announced March 13 that schools across the state, serving roughly 1.5 million students, would close from March 16 through at least March 27, a step the governor hoped would help mitigate the spread of the virus, which has killed six people in the state.

Virginia also joined other states in asking the U.S. Department of Education to waive mandatory testing requirements, something normally done in the spring. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Friday that the agency would accept applications for waivers, something Virginia is preparing.

The state should know if Standards of Learning tests are canceled for the year by mid-April.

Northam also said retail stores can stay open -- ABC stores included -- but they must have 10 or fewer patrons.

Restaurants must do takeout or delivery only.

"Gatherings of more than 10 are banned," Northam said. "We do not make these decisions lightly."

Recreation businesses, such as bowling alleys, theaters, etc., are ordered closed.

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