In a move affecting nearly 2 million children and their parents, Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday ordered the continued closure of schools until at least April 24 in the ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Kemp’s order gives K-12 schools the power to reopen on April 27, though he could extend the closure if the pandemic crisis worsens. Public colleges, which have already moved to online learning, will remain closed until the end of the school year.

The move is the latest effort to contain the virus, which has spread across Georgia at an accelerating rate, sickening more than 1,500 people and is linked to the deaths of dozens more.

All public schools in the state have been closed for over a week after Kemp signed a March 16 executive order requiring them to shut down from March 18 through the end of the month. Many had already shut their doors voluntarily after he gave them the option to do so in a public “call for action”.

Kemp’s new closure order will mean a couple months of lost school unless teachers can make remote learning work.

Schools have been working to stay on track, shifting to the internet or even considering the delivery of paper homework packets.

With all the upheaval, State School Superintendent Richard Woods decided to delay the standardized state testing that would have occurred in coming weeks.

He had authority to make that decision unilaterally, but most of Georgia’s Milestones tests are mandated by the federal government, so he is taking up the U.S. Department of Education’s invitation to apply for a waiver that would eliminate the requirement for this spring.

The governor, meanwhile, said Wednesday he had a “frank conversation” this week about the pandemic’s fallout on the school system.

“They want direction from a statewide perspective and we’re now in that place. I don’t mind taking that leadership role to do that,”  he told WGAU, an Athens-based radio station.

“And they need that with enough time so they can prepare whatever that decision may be, and I’ve committed to them that I’ll do that.”

AJC