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All Washington state schools ordered to close for 6 weeks because of coronavirus

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he would be expanding the six-week school cancellation to all K-12 schools within the state of Washington, keeping more than 1 million students home.

Yesterday Inslee ordered a similar closure that applied to all public and private schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties beginning March 17.

Under this new order, all schools must temporarily halt in-person classes by the end of next Monday. No classes will resume until April 24.

This statewide order does not include early learning and childcare centers, according to Seattle & King County Public Health.

Schools provide nutrition and childcare needs, critics of school closures over coronavirus have said. Inslee said these critical services would need to continue during the cancellation period.

"I'm urging labor and management to work together in the best interest of our kids," Inslee said. "This is not a vacation. Work may look different but the expectation is that school employees will still be working."

Student and school employee absentee rates have climbed, said Chris Reykdal, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction. This has caused disruptions in the state's ability to consistently and equitably deliver schooling and why Reykdal supported statewide consistency.

"There's going to be expectations that don't look like a traditional school day," Reykdal said. "But our commitment to vulnerable populations food and nutrition, and getting our seniors and juniors the credits they need to transition...will continue to be the initial work that we do."

The statewide closure gives the state the ability to operate as one unit, he said.

Other restrictions Inslee announced Friday apply to activities at public and private colleges statewide: No in-person classes from March 17 - April 24. Some students will be allowed to work in college labs as long as there are 6 feet separating them from each other, he said.

Inslee permitted colleges to continue use of dorms, food service, research and medical clinics.

The governor also extended the social distancing order and banned events of 250 or more attendees to all of Washington state.

This story is breaking and will be updated.