Arkansas closes schools for rest of school year

FILE - In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock Ark. Gov. Hutchinson is resisting issuing a broad stay-at-home order to curb the coronavirus outbreak, even as the state's cases continue to increase. Health officials on Thursday, March 2, 2020, said the number of coronavirus cases in the state had risen to at least 643, with two additional deaths. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP File)

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson announced Monday all schools will stay closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Hutchinson said that alternative methods will be used to ensure that learning continues, despite all campuses being shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 19, Hutchinson said all schools would be closed until at least April 17 to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Hutchinson expressed his gratitude to the teachers and students for acknowledging that education must continue.

“I want to applaud our teachers and students for hanging in there, not giving up on the school year and recognizing that education must continue,” said Hutchinson.

Graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020 are not officially canceled. According to education secretary Johnny Key, the ceremonies could possibly happen, even with the surrounding ambiguity. The main factor is how they would work with Arkansas state health department guidelines.

Schools can continue to provide their existing meal programs through the end of the school year, Key said, but they have to adhere to the state’s nutritional guidelines for feeding students.

There are 875 cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas as of Monday with 16 deaths. There were at least 102 people who have recovered from the coronavirus, and more than 12,800 tests have been conducted.