All schools in Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools, will be closed until the end of March as the state continues efforts to combat a growing number of coronavirus cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday.
The governor said all public and private schools in the state, including Chicago Public Schools, will close beginning Tuesday and stay closed through March 30.
The governor discussed the measure in a 4 p.m. coronavirus briefing.
"There’s an understanding here that we need to protect families and communities. That’s really what this is about," he said.
Pritzker, who the decision wasn't made lightly, noted that keeping schools open Monday will give teachers a day to address the weeks ahead with their students. He also said the state will be working with cities to deliver meals to students in need.
State education officials said the days would be classified as "act of God days," which means school personnel will be paid during that time.
Pritzker also said the state is working to give guidance for daycares and is working to expand unemployment benefits for parents who need to stay home with their children.
Hundreds of schools across the area - including some of the state's largest districts and all Catholic schools operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago - had already announced plans to implement e-learning programs or extend spring breaks to avoid bringing students into buildings during the outbreak.
The governor's announcement follows earlier comments from Chicago officials who said the city's public schools would remain open despite a daily rise in cases.
“We understand the governor’s decision to close schools statewide, but the City will not shrink from our obligation to provide essential services that CPS students and parents depend on,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “The health and safety of our children are of paramount importance. The City is finalizing a contingency plan that will meet the needs of vulnerable populations and ensure all our children are safe and engaged, but it is critical employers are flexible as parents seek childcare."
CPS had already begun scaling back large-scale school events, Lightfoot said, as well as issuing spring break guidance and instituting a mandatory policy on short-term closures for schools with confirmed cases.
"Let me be as clear as possible," Lightfoot said. "Every decision that I have made and every decision that I will make pertaining to COVID-19 is steered by data, public health guidance and medical professionals."
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in order to open up billions of dollars in direct relief to Americans affected by the coronavirus.
"To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency — two very big words," Trump said. "The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion."
Trump made the announcement during an afternoon press conference from the White House Rose Garden to address the spiraling pandemic as he seeks to calm a panicked nation amid mixed messages and growing criticism of his administration's scattershot response.