Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that all public and private K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties will close for the next six weeks. This decision impacts 43 school districts throughout the three counties. Public health officials hope the science-driven decision can help minimize COVID-19 exposure in Washington counties hit hardest by the virus.
Schools will close from Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, April 24. The timing will coincide with spring break for most Washington school districts.
“We do not take these decisions lightly and I am fully aware of the various impacts this has on families and communities,” Inslee said today during an Olympia press conference. “Today’s decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and childcare, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few. I anticipate this will cause ripple effects throughout our state. But we can’t afford not to do it. We must ensure that we slow the spread of this virus.”
Inslee said the virus in Washington has reached a tipping point where a long-term school closure is within the public health’s best and most crucial interest. Officials are seeing the number of the number of confirmed cases within the Puget Sound area double every 5–7 days, Inslee said he doesn’t expect this to slow down any time soon.
Chris Reykdal, superintendent at Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction:
“The health and safety of our students, staff, and their families is our top priority, and the decision to close these schools is the right one. Schools and districts around the state should be contingency planning for potential closures, including planning how they will continue to provide meals and other vital services while schools are closed. We are in this together, and our strength will bring us through this trying time.”
Dow Constantine, King County executive:
“King County stands with our families as we navigate the challenges and impacts of COVID-19 in our region, and will work with schools to ensure they have a plan that fits community needs. Schools are there to provide an education — they connect children with early learning opportunities, health services and, for many, their main meal of the day. We will continue to work with the governor’s office, local school district superintendents, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to ensure that during this time of uncertainty, students, parents, and our dedicated public education professionals have the support they need to thrive.”
Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County executive:
“Certainly, these actions are disruptive. But, I call upon all of us to rise to the challenge, consider the greater good, and take care of one another.”
Dave Somers, Snohomish County executive:
“At this unique time, we want to keep our families safe and ensure social distancing is being practiced. After speaking with our superintendents and many impacted families, Snohomish County fully supports the governor’s action. Closing schools has been shown to disrupt transmission and flatten the curve. We need consistency across the region, and these closures will give schools time to plan, ensuring our kids all have access to nutrition and instruction.”
Inslee made the announcement at the state Capitol in a larger venue than normal to practice social distancing measures that he talked about yesterday in Seattle.
During yesterday’s press conference, Inslee said events that take place in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties with more than 250 people are prohibited by the state. This order applies to gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational activities. These include but are not limited to community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers and similar activities. You can read more about specific guidelines around events on the governor’s website.
For the latest COVID-19 health information, statistics, and guidance, visit the Washington State Department of Health website.
For all other state resources relates to COVID-19, visit the governor’s coronavirus page.