Gulf District Schools closed last Friday afternoon for Spring Break.

When students will return remains an open question.

The Gulf County School Board on Tuesday approved an emergency declaration that opens the way for staff to draft formal educational and feeding plans in the event the break lasts into a third week and beyond.

The board will revisit its emergency declaration at its next scheduled meeting on April 1.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the state extended the mandatory closure of schools statewide until April 15.

In addition, all statewide standardized testing will be cancelled for this school year.

Next week is being called, from the state down, an extension of Spring Break, said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton.

In addition, the local declaration approved Tuesday included maintaining all payroll with teachers on an “on-call” basis.

Likewise, the state is mandating that all teachers continue to be paid for at least the next 120 days.

Like districts across the state, Norton said, Gulf District Schools are still awaiting guidance from the Florida Department of Education on a host of issues.

But the district must have an “Instructional Continuity Plan” to the state by the first of next week, to be implemented the following week.

The district must also put in place a meal distribution program for at least the next two weeks using district resources.

Though nothing was finalized, Norton said the elementary schools would serve as bases for preparing and serving, via drive-by through tents, at least one meal per day.

Norton envisioned meals varying in focus, from lunch to breakfast, adding in an element of each with every meal.

Norton said the plan is for 300 brown-bag lunches at each end of the county on Monday, the number to be adjusted as the district moves forward.

In addition, a bus would run a route to more rural areas, from White City and Howard Creek to Mexico Beach with another 170 lunches.

A site could also be established outside the Washington High School gym.

“We are prepared to do this for (at least) two weeks,” Norton said. “We are not taking this on to feed the public; we are taking this on to feed kids.”

Norton said the county might have one advantage: its citizens understand disasters having been through Hurricane Michael.

“Everybody in this room knows how to deal with a disaster,” Norton said. “This time we are fighting an invisible enemy.”

“We are doing everything we can do. We are preparing for the long haul.”

The Florida Department of Education last Friday announced the initial closing of schools statewide due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In effect with more than 90 percent of the 67 districts ready to enter Spring Break this week, the FDOE extended that by one week, with districts on hold for further direction.

The cancellation of school included all extracurricular activities, including sports.

In addition to the cancellation of all school activities, the state also mandated the deep cleaning of all school facilities; Gulf District Schools were already scheduling such cleaning for both junior-senior high schools during Spring Break.