HARRISBURG, Pa. - Under a new state order, Pennsylvania schools will remain shuttered for the rest of the academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Tom Wolf's education secretary signed the closure order Thursday.

“This was not an easy decision but closing schools until the end of the academic year is in the best interest of our students, school employees and families," Wolf said in a news release.

The decision affects more than 1.7 million students in public and private K-12 schools. It means children will spend the rest of the academic year learning remotely.

Wolf had previously closed schools indefinitely.

Pennsylvania students will not be heading back to school this year, but state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera  says districts are expected to keep teaching.

"I don't have the authority to mandate continuity of education by law, what I do have, and I'm absolutely exercising, is setting the conditions and providing support for continuity of education."

All Bethlehem students have computers to work at home. The district is still working on making sure everyone has internet access.

Superintendent Joseph Roy says online learning is a substitute but not a full course load, and says older students are now being graded on a pass/fail scale to adjust.

"My biggest concern today with everyone now knowing we're done for the year, is a sense of loss on the part of students," Roy said.

People are expressing sympathy online for students, particularly for seniors.

One commenter wrote: "I feel really bad for the high school seniors. I'm hoping the schools will consider holding graduation and proms in July or August if the virus is under control by then."

A parent wrote "I have a senior in HS. I really hope they can fit in at least the graduation ceremony when all is said and done."

Roy says Bethlehem is brainstorming ideas, and Allentown's superintendent has vowed on Twitter to make sure seniors have a seamless transition and to find a way to celebrate what they've achieved.

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