All schools in Georgia will be closed for the remainder of March because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday night.
Kemp issued an executive order to close all elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools in the state from Wednesday until March 31. Many district in metro Atlanta, including Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City Schools had already closed school buildings to students and teachers for this week, however.
Kemp’s order came on the heels of the Georgia General Assembly ratifying the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency in the state during a special session earlier on Monday. That declaration gave Kemp extra powers to protect the public during the outbreak.
“To keep our students, teachers, and administrators safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I am ordering the closure of all public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools in Georgia from March 18, 2020 to March 31, 2020,” Kemp said in a statement. “This measure is critical to reducing local transmission in communities across our state, and I ask Georgians to continue to follow best practices — washing their hands regularly, isolating the elderly and chronically ill, and avoiding large events if possible — in the days and weeks ahead.”
GCPS initially announced on March 12 that schools would be closed through March 20, with a plan for the following week announced by Thursday. On Tuesday, GCPS told school leaders that the district was finalizing its plans to allow more school and district-level employees to work remotely beginning Wednesday.
Principals, administrative assistants, bookkeepers, student nutrition program personnel and head custodians will still report to schools to address the day-to-day operations. Some district-level staff will continue working at the J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center in Suwanee.
Cafeteria and transportation staff involved in organizing meal deliveries will continue to report for this week and next week, a district official said.
Buford City Schools has been utilizing digital learning platforms for its students. All Buford school and central office staff were instructed to work from home throughout the closure, beginning Monday.
Some custodial staff are reporting to keep buildings sanitized, and accounting personnel is reporting as-needed. All Buford staff, including hourly employees, will be paid through the closure, according to a district spokesperson.
The Gwinnett County Board of Education will still conduct its monthly meeting on Thursday with public forum beginning at 6:15 p.m. and the meeting beginning at 7 p.m. There will be no board recognitions and district staff attendance will be limited to department heads.
Gwinnett County Public Schools superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks told district employees on Monday that GCPS was considering its leave practices and work schedules given the situation and updates to federal guidance. The business agenda for Thursday’s board meeting includes three recommendations to review policies regarding employee leave.