by Carl Corry |

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has ordered all schools in the county closed beginning Monday, March 16, to Friday, March 27, due to concerns over the coronavirus.

“As we prepared over the last several days for the potential closure announcement, we had discussions with State officials and the Suffolk County School Superintendent’s Association about critical issues involving meal programs for kids and childcare,” Bellone said in a statement.

“There is evidence that the virus is already present in many communities we serve, and our efforts now must be aimed at preventing its spread. As part of our larger social distancing efforts, we believe that closing schools is the right thing to do at this time,” he continued. “While kids are home from school we encourage parents to continue to follow County Health Department guidance and practice social distancing and to wash hands frequently to help contain the spread of the virus. If anyone in the family is symptomatic please stay home and quarantine yourself on a precautionary basis.

“While schools are closed for instruction, administrators and teachers will still have access to school buildings for local district planning, distance-based education purposes, temporary grab-and-go meal programs and childcare issues.”

The order came following a conference call with Suffolk County superintendents and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said Wiliam Floyd schools spokesman James Montalto.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” Montalto said. “We are trying to put together a document answering questions.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a news conference Sunday, asked businesses to let non-essential workers stay home.

All non-essential New York State government workers from Rockland County south are to stay home, he said.

It’s complicated because essential workers such as public transportation, police, firefighters and hospital workers must go to work, Cuomo said, while the meal needs of children must be addressed.

“For many families, the schools are childcare. If you close schools, a large position of the workforce might say, ‘I need to stay home to take of my children.'”

In the past few days, several Long Island school districts had announced they would close to students for two weeks, even with no cases of coronavirus connected to those districts.