Twenty-two states and a number of large urban school districts are shutting down all K-12 schools as part of an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
USA Today reports that Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have made plans to close all schools.
Other major metropolitan school systems such as Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, also have shuttered. And a growing number of smaller districts around the nation also have chosen to close.
Numbers tracked by MCH Strategic Data, based in Sweet Springs, Mo., show that as of 1 p.m. Monday, at least 50,682 out of a total of 124,090 schools (41%) in the United States are closed. That amounts to 45.12% of the entire K-12 student population of 57.9 million—or 26.1 million students affected by closures.
Disadvantaged families who rely the most on schools for stable services, such as meals and access to learning materials, will be some of the most negatively affected.
“Wide-scale learning loss could be among the biggest impacts coronavirus has on children in America,” said Betsy Zorio, vice president of U.S. programs at Save the Children, an international children's charity. “With an unprecedented number of school closures already announced and many more expected, ensuring that children can continue to learn is essential.
The effects on children will be particularly acute in places such as Los Angeles, where the school district serves more than 600,000 students. About 80 percent of students there rely on their school for lunch. More than 20,000 are homeless.
DeWine said the goal of the closures in Ohio is to slow the spread of the disease so that hospitals don't become overwhelmed. The virus has not sickened children as readily as older adults, but there is some concern that children could transmit the virus even if they have mild symptoms or no symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised schools that if an infection is detected in the community, school leaders should consult with local health departments about when to close, but should take steps to keep students spread out from each other, such as staggering dismissals, spreading out desks and canceling field trips.
Schools should close at least for a few days in the case of an infected person who has been in the building, the CDC said in updated guidelines Thursday.