MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Merced County has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, but now all 20 school districts in the county are preparing to close their campuses as a precaution.
The closures are scheduled to start Thursday, March 19 and continue through April 17. They will impact more than 60,000 students.
The Merced City School District's print shop is in overdrive right now, creating curriculum packets that students will be able to bring home while their classes are canceled.
The lessons include online resources and are intended to strengthen understanding of topics the children have already learned.
Staff members will also be preparing thousands of meals that families can pick up daily at school sites for breakfast and lunch.
Superintendent Dr. Al Rogers says, "They'll be able to drive up, get the food, get the curriculum, and drive away. And there will be a separate line for those who are on foot."
Rogers says it's a challenging time for everyone, but districts throughout the county agreed closing campuses was the right decision. Attendance has already dropped significantly since the first coronavirus cases reached the Valley.
Rogers adds, "We know that parents want us first to keep their children safe, and in adhering to that, we're having to ask that they keep their children home."
The districts chose to close Thursday to give parents a few days to figure out child care plans, but Merced Union High School District Superintendent Alan Peterson says it's still one of the most difficult decisions he's faced during his career.
Peterson explains, "Many of us feel like we're abandoning our posts because the nurses, the doctors, all the first responders in our community need to be able to do their job without having to worry about supervision of their children, however we understand the health issue too."
The high school district will also provide meals during the closure at all of its campuses to anyone 18 and under, regardless of where they're enrolled. You can view the flyer with details on times and locations on their website.
Students will also have access to remote learning resources.
Peterson says, "It will be for enrichment and review only. Our students will pick up a flash drive if they need it, or they will be able to attain those services through the internet."
Some staff members will be required to work during the closure, but others will be staying home.
The superintendents we spoke with say everyone will be paid regardless of their situation, and at students will not be required to make up the missed days this summer.
Merced schools to provide meals and resources during upcoming closures