Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced Sunday that he has signed an executive order authorizing temporary closure of all Minnesota K-12 public schools to students. This will allow for school administrators and teachers to make long-term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closure will begin Wednesday, March 18. According to Mary Cathryn Ricker, Minnesota Education Commissioner, the closure will end on March 27.

“I am stressing to use this time to plan,” Ricker said Sunday. “We are planning for the potential of weeks of distance learning.”

Executive Order 20-02 requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers during previously planned school days to ensure Minnesota’s first line of defense against COVID-19 can stay on the job. The Executive Order also makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need.