Coronavirus forces all San Francisco public schools to close for 3 weeks

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all San Francisco public schools are shutting down for three weeks, school district officials announced on Thursday. 

San Francisco Unified School District said the closure of more than 100 schools goes into effect on Monday and runs through the end of its regularly scheduled spring break on April 3, impacting 50,000 students and their families. 

All campus buildings will be closed during that period and student activities including school-day instruction, extracurricular programs, and afterschool services are on hold. 

Late Thursday, the district announced the immediate closure of Glen Park Elementary. Seven students there are said to have respiratory illness. The Department of Public Health is investigating those cases and will test the students for COVID-19. 

There are not confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus at Glen Park or any other SFUSD schools at this time. Glen Park families and staff are asked to self-quarantine at home while they monitor their health for the next 14 days. 

Superintendent of SFUSD Dr. Vincent Matthews said those three weeks will allow the district more time to get additional preventative measures in place as COVID-19 continues to spread. That time will also be used to clean campuses, and restock items for when students return. 

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"The San Francisco Unified School District is taking the time to prepare school communities in the likelihood of a prolonged COVID-19 epidemic," he said. 

There are currently 18 confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco and as the virus spirals, there's the risk of more infection which means mitigation is crucial. 

The city has already implemented sustained response measures to disrupt the spread such as prohibiting large gatherings of 1,000 or more people. 

The hiatus comes two weeks before spring break, which could be challenging for working families to make arrangements for their children. 

Matthews said the district and is collaborating with city partners and community organizations to figure out how to support its students and their families while schools are closed. 

The district reversed course after previously stating on Wednesday that all schools would remain open. Over the course of 24 hours, there were significant developments. The most noteworthy was the closure of Lakeshore Elementary School on Thursday after four students and some family members had reported respiratory illness.