Boston Public Schools will close on Tuesday and classrooms will likely remain empty for more than a month, although Mayor Marty Walsh says if the coronavirus outbreak is quelled, he could bring students back sooner.
Walsh made the announcement Friday night after dozens of other districts canceled classes earlier in the week.
"We're not going to wait for more cases to be confirmed," Walsh said. "We've determined that now is the time to take bold action and slow the spread of this virus."
Student and teachers will be in schools Monday. Walsh said that was to give parents time to plan, and students the ability to pick up items they might need for the unexpected break.
"If the situation with coronavirus changes for the better, and we all pray that it does, we will bring our students back before April 27," Walsh said.
Walsh said the decision for Boston was complicated in part because of the diversity of the 53,000 students the district serves. Three-quarters of the students rely on school for at least two meals a day. About 4,500 students are experiencing homelessness. One in five students has a program to accommodate a disability.
Walsh's announcement came after mounting public pressure on him to close the schools, including an online petition with more than 16,000 signers.
On Wednesday, Boston ordered closed the three North End campuses of the Eliot K-8 school closed after a "non-student member of the school's community" tested positive for the coronavirus.
Walsh said he believes other school districts across the state will have to extend their closures beyond the two weeks many already announced. Everett also announced a month shutdown.
"There's no signs now the coronavirus spread is going to stop or slow down," he said. "It seems like it is going to be more aggressive and we want to make sure as we put plans in place we can prepare our kids to do some home learning while this is going on."
The mayor said plans are being finalized on childcare, meals for students and other essential services for students with special needs.
The state has not issued any recommendations to districts on whether to close.