MOORHEAD — Both Moorhead and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton public school districts aren't waiting for the rest of the state — they closed schools to students immediately in order to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

"Our leadership team is working diligently to put together a strong operational strategy," Moorhead Area Public School Superintendent Brandon Lunak said in a 3 p.m. press conference Sunday, March 15. "I can assure you that we are committed that every staff and student will be put in the place to be safe."

At 10 a.m. Sunday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker announced all Minnesota public schools will close to students starting Wednesday, March 18, with the plan to resume some form of instruction on Monday, March 30.

For Moorhead, the decision to close immediately, while other schools in Minnesota remain open until Wednesday, was "so our staff could gather their thoughts on Monday and allow them to plan and get things ready, as we expect our staff to come back and report to work on Tuesday," Lunak said.

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In a memo to parents, Lunak said Moorhead Area Public Schools would be joining schools across the state to "create plans to equitably distribute distance learning to our students, should we need to close schools statewide for a longer period of time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minnesota Department of Education is defining distance learning to mean that a student receives daily interaction with their licensed teachers and appropriate educational materials."

In the memo, Lunak also indicated that during the closure, the district would be "committed that every child will be given the opportunity to get a healthy meal" and that "every child will receive a high-quality education."

"Our educators will be giving thoughtful planning to our distance learning plan, offering careful consideration for students in a variety of areas, including students receiving special education services, multilingual learners, students experiencing homelessness, and students who rely on meals served at school," the memo stated.

Lunak also encouraged students to take precautions themselves by not congregating, having friends over, getting together in groups and to continue prevention measures that have been defined by the Centers for Disease Control.

The district is also working on a plan to provide daycare services for health care workers, police officers, fire fighters, first responders and other emergency personnel. More information will be shared with the public as plans are finalized, which Lunak says will happen Monday and Tuesday.

“What we know about our community is that we pull together in challenging times; we care for our neighbors, and we never back down from a challenge," Lunak said. "Educators are truly public servants, and the work that we are doing now is the right thing for our community. I have confidence that we have the best team in place to face this unprecedented challenge together.”

On Sunday, the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school district sent out a mass text to parents, indicating it would also close immediately and use Monday and Tuesday as a time for employees to work on a distance-learning plan.

Detroit Lakes School District has notified parents it will hold school Monday, March 16, but will be closed as of Tuesday, March 17.