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California

San Francisco will close all public schools in response to coronavirus outbreak

Handshake-free zone at UC San Francisco Medical Center
A sign at UC San Francisco Medical Center warns of no-handshake measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
(Smith Collection/Gado)

The San Francisco Unified School District is closing all schools for three weeks, beginning Monday through the end of the regularly scheduled spring break April 3.

The move came after four students at Lakeshore Elementary School showed symptoms of pneumonia, probably from the coronavirus, the district said. Lakeshore Elementary was ordered closed Wednesday after the students and some of their adult family members reported respiratory illness.

The large Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento County has also been closed, as have a scattering of other schools around the state.

Despite mounting cries Thursday afternoon for Los Angeles Unified School District campuses to close, officials said they would not.

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Though schools are engaging in contingency planning that includes granting the superintendent broad emergency powers, canceling large events and planning for lessons delivered on TV, public health and school officials said they planned to keep schools open unless a campus has a confirmed case.

Meanwhile, as of Thursday afternoon, more than 23,000 people had signed a Change.org petition to close all schools in the district because of the coronavirus.

The school board is meeting in closed session Friday for a status report from L.A. Unified Supt. Austin Beutner.

Board President Richard Vladovic said Thursday it was important to rely on the advice of health officials in making the call on whether to close schools.

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“The prudent decision is take direction from the doctors and the healthcare providers that happen to know,” he said. “I can’t second-guess a pandemic and how it’s spread. If there’s ever a doubt, the safety of children will come first.”

Officials from the governor on down have avoided calling for closing schools, citing the hardships for families and the difficulty in providing academic services and the school meals that children depend on. But Vladovic acknowledged there was widespread debate among parents and employees about what was best.


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