BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has formally come out in support of immediately closing public school facilities statewide for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

“We, the leadership of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), respectfully request that you act now in making a decision to formally extend school facilities closures for the remainder of the Spring term,” the BESE board leadership said in a letter sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards Thursday.

Read the full letter here.

Edwards closed all Louisiana K-12 public schools by emergency order March 13 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and last week extended the closure through April 30. While Edwards has said the state’s education leadership were discussing the best way forward, no decisions on whether schools would be closed for the rest of the year have been formally announced.

“The safety and health of our students and educators is the top priority for BESE,” BESE President Sandy Holloway said in a statement released with the letter. “The impact of COVID-19 in Louisiana has been pronounced, and statistics clearly indicate that our state is particularly vulnerable to further spread of this dangerous virus at a time when we have yet to see the expected peak in the number of cases.

BESE leadership, therefore, supports the Governor in making a decision sooner, rather than later, to extend the school facilities closure through the end of the school year. We also implore districts to maintain food services and distance learning for all students, as this facilities closure does not mark the discontinuation of supports for families for the Spring term.”

“Preserving a continuity of learning for our students during this closure is extremely important,” Holloway said. “We applaud the efforts of Louisiana educators and school districts to deliver distance education and meal services and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE), under the leadership of Beth Scioneaux, Acting State Superintendent, will continue to provide guidance and support as all stakeholders navigate this unprecedented event. Our Board supports the LDE in focusing its efforts on designing a long-term plan to address the loss of classroom instructional time and identifying the necessary policy revisions that ensure students are not left behind academically. We look forward to conversations with key stakeholders and local education agencies in that process.”