The San Francisco Unified School District will shut down the public school system for three weeks starting Monday, March 16 in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The sweeping move is an attempt to protect 54,000 students and more staff in 133 schools from the rapidly spreading virus.
“All school buildings, activities for students including school day instruction and extracurricular activities, childcare, before and after school services, health services, enrichment are cancelled,” said Superintendent Vincent Matthews at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
The three-week closure of California's seventh largest school district includes a previously scheduled spring break and applies primarily to students, who are expected to return to school April 6.
“Staff will be working part of this time and using the time to prepare and train on how to educate and support community health during this epidemic,” the district said in a statement.
Officials are advising families to keep students at home and minimize social contact as much as possible in order to reduce exposure and avoid spreading the virus.
“Children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus. However, they can transmit the virus to those most vulnerable. Public health officials recommend that families make arrangements for childcare during closure that avoid leaving children with elderly people who are more vulnerable to the impact of the virus,” said the district’s statement.
The district says it is working with city officials to ensure that families still receive necessary services that schools ordinarily provide, such as free meals for students from low-income families.