By Wausau Pilot and Review Staff

All Wisconsin schools are required to close under an order issued Friday by the Department of Health Services to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

The order will take effect no later than March 18.

The closures will affect nearly 1 million Wisconsin children in grades K-12 in both public and private schools. Schools, particularly those in counties with reported cases of COVID-19 are allowed to close earlier if they choose. 

Gov. Tony Evers on Friday directed the Department of Health Services, the state agency tasked with managing COVID-19, to issue an order mandating the statewide closure of all K-12 schools. 

“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers said in a statement.