Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson addressed the governor and state leaders with an update on coronavirus and schools on March 12, 2020. Here is what he said:
“Thank you, Governor. I will echo what you said that there will be unpopular decisions and nothing is more unpopular than which ever decision is made for the public schools. Right now, we are keeping public schools open and that is at the guidance of our health professionals.
We hear from a lot of parents who have the ability to keep their students home and the ability to conduct e-learning and the ability to make sure their students get the proper nutrition at home. We hear frustration from them that schools are not closed.
If heaven forbid we have to make the decision to close the schools, we will also then have to hear from parents who struggle to keep their children at home, who might not have the internet connection, and we know there will be students who will not get the nutrition they need during the day.
So this is a very important factor where we are weighing all of the considerations that much go into this decision.
Unlike the university system, we do have a public school system that is made up of 115 individual districts. So we have been prioritizing for local superintendents to work with their local health officials, and ultimately, the decision for each local community will come down to the local health official and the local superintendent with the guidance that we are working on from the state.
I can tell you already we have been in contact with the federal authorities, and we are learning from other states who are going through this currently on what steps they have taken if heaven forbid we would have to close schools.
And tomorrow we will be having an opportunity for all local superintendents and their staff to join us in investigating what those e-learning opportunities would look like if we have to get to that point.”