State officials have extended school closures through the end of April out of continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the nation.

In a joint release, Gov. Henry McMaster and state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said they were extending the closures by a month because “must remain closed to protect the health and safety of South Carolinians.”

McMaster initially ordered the closing of public schools, which includes state-run colleges and universities, on March 15 through the end of the month to curb the spread of COVID-19. The fast-spreading respiratory virus usually has mild symptoms but can be severe, especially for the elderly and those with certain underlying conditions.

An executive order has not been signed about the latest announcement, but McMaster said it was forthcoming.

In a Facebook post about the change from Greenwood County School District 52, Ware Shoals administrators said, “Our state superintendent will be providing guidance on student work soon, relaxing course and time requirements. We want students to continue learning but not be overwhelmed.”

Superintendent Fay Sprouse and District 51 administration hates the extension of the statewide school closures but understands that it’s “something that has to be done during this crucial time.”

Students learned earlier this week that they’ll have a reprieve from federally mandated testing during the closures after the U.S. Department of Education approved a waiver for the state.

Learning hasn’t stopped, however. Districts in the Lakelands and across the state have sent home packets and conducted classes online so instruction can continue despite schools being shuttered.

Greenwood County School District 50 announced that its schools will be open Wednesday for middle and high school students, or staff, who might need to pick up Chromebooks or essential items and material as schools will be closed for another month. Elementary students do not need to pick up Chromebooks as their distance learning packets are available on the district’s website and at their emergency feeding sites.

Julie Fowler, Abbeville County School District superintendent, said she and the district were “braced for the announcement of a school closing extension (because) of the daily SCDE and state superintendent briefings provided to district superintendents.” Fowler thinks the extension through April 30 could give students — particularly seniors — hope for the possibility of returning to school, having prom and graduation.

ACSD is currently preparing for the second wave of distributing instructional packets and eLearning plans to their students.

Rex Ward, Greenwood School District 52 superintendent, said the district will continue feeding Ninety Six students’ lunch, providing instructional materials and doing its best during these circumstances.

“The health and safety of the district’s students and employees is essential,” he said.

Lander University and Piedmont Technical College have already canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the academic year, and instead are teaching online.