Local schools to close due to coronavirus fears; Hemet and San Jacinto to offer free meals during closures

Valley News/Will Fritz file photo

Riverside County health officials are ordering the closure of all the county’s schools to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, it was announced Friday.

“To further prevent the spread throughout the county, effective Monday, March 16, I am ordering a school closure, not a dismissal, of all Riverside County public schools,” Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said in a statement. “This order also applies to preschools, charter schools, private schools and all colleges and universities in Riverside County.”

The order will be lifted on April 3 and classes will be allowed to resume on April 6, “unless another update is warranted at that time,” Kaiser said.

Local school districts already began to announce school closures and extended spring breaks on their own throughout the day on Friday.

In Valley News’ coverage area, the Temecula Valley Unified, Murrieta Valley Unified, Lake Elsinore Unified, Menifee Union, Perris Union High, Hemet Unified and San Jacinto Unified school districts had all announced closures by early Friday afternoon. Superintendents from each of those districts announced campuses and before/after school programs would be shut down effective Monday, March 16.

“We applaud those school districts that have taken proactive choices to close their schools starting Monday, March 16, 2020, in order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Riverside County,” Kaiser said.

Both the Temecula Valley and Murrieta Valley districts plan to suspend classes and programs until Monday, April 6.

Lake Elsinore Unified, which was set to go on spring break next week, announced it was extending its break until April 3, with classes beginning again on April 6.

Menifee Union will keep schools shut down until Tuesday, April 14, after the end of its spring break.

Perris Union High School District, which serves Menifee, plans to reopen Monday, April 13, after the end of its previously-scheduled spring break.

Hemet Unified also plans to resume classes on Monday, April 13, also after the end of its spring break.

San Jacinto Unified only plans to keep schools shut down until Friday, March 27, but said that the closure would be extended if necessary.

Temecula school site offices will remain open during regular school hours on Monday to allow for families to pick up medication and other student belongings, Temecula Valley Superintendent Tim Ritter said.

“Families, thank you for your partnership during this world-wide concern,” Ritter said. “Our main goals are to focus on student learning and health while keeping you informed.”

Each district announced plans to explore distance learning.

Hemet Unified and San Jacinto Unified both announced plans to offer free meals for all children under the age of 18 during their closures.

San Jacinto Unified said breakfast and lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at nine different school locations, with drive-thru pickup. All children must be present to receive meals.

Hemet Unified said it would provide meals at every school location from 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, with a drive-thru and walk-thru setup.

“For those driving, HUSD asks that you stay in your car and bagged meals will be provided for each child present. If you have students at multiple schools, you only need to visit
one location,” Hemet Unified said in a statement.

This is a breaking news story and will continue to be updated with information regarding school closures in the local area.

2:25 p.m. Friday: This story was updated with information about closures in the Menifee Union, Hemet Unified and San Jacinto Unified school districts, and with information about free meals being provided for children in Hemet and San Jacinto.

2:35 p.m. Friday: This story was updated with information about closures in the Perris Union High School District.

4:30 p.m. Friday: This story was updated to indicate Riverside County officials have ordered the closure of all schools in the county.