RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday all schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia will remain closed for the remainder of the academic school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northam's announcement Monday comes as the state announced that the number of people testing positive for the virus continues to rise and is now at 254.
The governor says the closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads and protect the capacity of the health care system.
Northam had previously ordered a two-week school closure, which was set to end at the end of this week. Many school districts in the state have previously said they will be closed until at least mid-April.
“I know this raises a lot of questions for parents and also for our students,” said Northam. “School division leaders will decide how students can learn the information they were meant to cover for the remainder of the year."
When it comes to testing requirements, Northam says his administration is working on waivers to relieve those requirements and make sure students on track to graduate can do so.
"I understand that for many families, these closures present practical considerations of who will care for children during the day now that they are not in school," said Northam.
Charles Pyle, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education, says the governor and state superintendent want to ensure that students who are on track to graduate this year, will graduate on time.
"We don't want students to be penalized for circumstances that are beyond their control," Pyle said. "We want learning to continue and we want students to continue to have opportunities to remain engaged in learning, even as schools are shut down... But we also want school divisions, as they plan how they're going to do that, to be inclusive to provide equitable opportunities that don't leave students out."
On Monday night, the Department of Education issued guidance to help school systems with the decisions that lay ahead.
The document waives various graduation requirements and lays out guidelines to help teachers and school districts determine where to focus their efforts for the remainder of the year.
The guidelines released to school divisions will also help local superintendents and school boards create online curriculum and give localities the option to implement summer school and/or an extended 2020-21 school year.
The localities must adhere to strict policies that include students who are disabled, don't have online access, are unable to speak English or are young learners. Local school divisions will also have to decide how GPA's and course credits will be calculated.