Dozens of schools across the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire are heeding the warnings of public health and education officials and canceling classes due to the coronavirus crisis.
Two top Massachusetts officials — Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel — held a conference phone call Friday with local school superintendents, providing guidance on how to deal with the illness known as COVID-19.
New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut also advised superintendents in that state to use common sense when reducing the spread of the virus.
Many schools across the region are making arrangements to provide alternate learning scenarios for students during the classroom shutdown, Riley and Edelblut said.
Several districts are also working on ways to supply breakfast and lunch to students who usually receive those meals at school.
Here are details of the school closures:
NEW HAMPSHIRE SAU 55
Superintendent Earl Metzler announced that all Timberlane Regional schools will be closed for two weeks beginning Monday. The district serves students in Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown.
All Hampstead schools will also be closed for two weeks.
Public schools will be closed for at least two weeks and likely longer, Superintendent Sheldon Berman told the School Committee at an emergency meeting Friday.
“I recommend Andover public schools close from March 16 to March 27,” Berman said, “and also be prepared to close for longer if necessary.”
School Committee members supported his decision, asking questions about ongoing learning opportunities and access to free and reduced lunches for low-income families.
Berman said the district does not have access to technology for online learning. He also said two or three schools may remain open to provide free and reduced lunch and breakfast to those who need it.
Public school students in Haverhill will remain out of the classroom for two weeks, Superintendent Margaret Marotta said Friday in an email to families.
Emphasizing that no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the city, Marotta called the closure “unprecedented” when letting students and parents know school will be called off and learning shifted online.
According to a joint statement from Marotta and Mayor James Fiorentini, students will be able to continue their curriculum as seamlessly as possible. HC Media Channel 99 plans to air elementary-, middle- and high-school appropriate enrichment activities starting Monday.
Students can also access their current ST Math, Envisions and Stem Scops online programs.
Plans for breakfast and lunch distribution and other community support services are being arranged and will be announced as soon as possible, Marotta and Fiorentini said.
In the meantime, the mayor and superintendent stressed common sense when dealing with the public health emergency.
“We encourage people to wash hands frequently and to keep social distance, defined as 6 feet of distance away from others,” they said in a release.
Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School also canceled classes for two weeks through at least Friday, March 27.
In a letter to families Friday, Superintendent Cynthia Paris said the district will close for two weeks, with an anticipated return date of Monday, March 30.
While schools are closed, “grab-and-go’’ meals are available for students Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Arlington, Parthum and Guilmette complexes and the Lawrence High School campus, Paris said. Nursing and counseling staff are being made available to the school community during that same time.
Lawrence General Hospital has established a COVID-19 screening phone line at 978-946-8409. It is staffed around the clock.
Families are encouraged to visit the school district’s website at lawrence.k12.ma.us for updates.
North Andover Superintendent Gregg Gilligan sent a letter to parents.
“We have made the decision to close all North Andover public schools starting Saturday, March 14, 2020,’’ the letter reads. “Schools will remain closed through Sunday, March 29, 2020. It is important for families to understand that this is an initial determination. It is possible that this may lead to a longer closure.”
Gilligan stressed the importance of people avoiding being in large groups.
“If students and families continue to meet together in groups outside of school, this closure will not have the desired impact,’’ he said. “It is critical that students and families refrain from meeting in large groups and to practice social distancing as recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).”
In the coming days, the school district will have more information about providing lunches to students, he said.
Superintendent Brandi Kwong and Mayor Neil Perry announced in a joint statement Friday that Methuen public schools and the Methuen Senior Center will be closed for two weeks. This includes all school-sponsored events and activities, which will either be canceled or postponed.
Community-based rentals of school facilities are also canceled, they said.
“We are asking residents to practice healthy hygiene habits and social distancing,” Perry said. “We will continue to act locally and make the decisions we feel best protect the health and safety of our residents by limiting risks associated with unnecessarily large gatherings.”
Meals will be provided to students starting Wednesday. “Grab-and-go’’ breakfasts will be available from 7 to 9 a.m. at the upper school side of Tenney Grammar School, 75 Pleasant St. Lunches will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Meals on Wheels program will continue without interruption, officials said. Library, recreation and senior programming is suspended until further notice, they said.
All Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
“On an ongoing basis, we will consider whether this period needs to be extended further,” reads a statement from the Catholic Schools Office.
Locally, the closings affect St. Michael School in North Andover, St. Monica in Methuen, Lawrence Catholic Academy in Lawrence and Sacred Hearts School in Bradford.
Central Catholic High School in Lawrence is closed Monday and Tuesday, with plans to hold remote learning sessions Wednesday through Friday. All before- and after-school and evening activities are canceled. Families are encouraged to visit https://www.centralcatholic.net/be-well for more information.
All closed Catholic schools are urged to make their best effort to provide ongoing learning and meals to any students eligible for free or reduced priced lunch.
GREATER LAWRENCE TECHNICAL SCHOOL
The school will close and students will continue their studies online starting Monday and continuing through Friday, March 27.
Educators will be available by email and Google Classroom to assist students.
All adult education and after-hours programs have been canceled next week. All before- and after-school events, including athletic games and practices, have also been canceled.