Coronavirus file photo stock of closed New Orleans school

School Resource Officer Donald Lee locks the gates of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School for Science and Technology after all the students left, in New Orleans, Friday, March 13, 2020. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has closed K-12 public schools across the state for roughly a month in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Gov. John Bel Edwards has officially signed a proclamation to close K-12 public school campuses for the remainder of the spring semester due to the coronavirus pandemic, he announced during a Wednesday afternoon press conference. 

For the past week, the Louisiana governor had said it was likely the school closure would be extended to the end of the 2019-20 school year. 

"This is not the end of learning for this academic year -- it’s just the end of students going to school campuses for the spring semester," Edwards said.

Edwards said schools could continue remote learning through the end of the school year and said officials are working hard to address its challenges, especially for Louisiana students in low-income and rural communities. 

When asked questions about how officials would respond to gaps in academic achievement and how to catch students up during and after coronavirus closures, school officials were vague but said they are working with local districts to come up with plans.

Beth Scioneaux, the acting Louisiana State Superintendent, said though the state department is offering guidance, it would be up to local districts on whether to offer grades or promote students to the next grade. 

Edwards even hinted at ideas of what next school year would look like, suggesting that assemblies and how they let groups of students in and out of campus could look different to avoid large gatherings. Nothing has been decided yet, but he said they are working with school systems already on the 2020-21 academic year. 

The governor initially shuttered schools effective March 16 as part of efforts to stem the spread of the virus and later extended his order through April 30.

The move to keep classrooms closed was backed by the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, leaders of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

The news of Edwards' announcement of closing schools came during the second-highest day of reported deaths associated with coronavirus in Louisiana, with the death toll climbing to 1,103 victims. As of Wednesday, the Louisiana Department of Health said 21,951 patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

Staff writer Will Sentell contributed to this article.


Contact Katelyn Umholtz at kumholtz@theadvocate.com.