At noon on Monday, school officials believed that students might be back in class Tuesday after last week's chemical spill into the Elk River.
But a few hours later, officials in Kanawha, Putnam, Boone and Lincoln counties had announced that schools would be closed again today.
State Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said that it wasn't feasible for schools to be ready for students by Tuesday, citing safety concerns with school cafeterias and food preparation involving water.
Schools (and other buildings) in Charleston's downtown and East End were given the OK to flush their pipes at noon, and schools in Kanawha City and the Malden area followed suit around 5 p.m.
But even school cafeterias in those districts have to be approved by local health departments before they can serve meals to students, Cordeiro said.
The Department of Education was also concerned about other facilities, such as daycare programs, being closed, and potential hardships on families, she said.
At a noon news conference, State Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares said he was "optimistic" that Kanawha and Putnam schools would be open Tuesday. But he added, "But to ensure the safety of your children, we are not going to rush them back to school if it's not safe."
"In our world, all means all," Phares said. "We want to have assurance that every child is safe."
The water crisis comes at a time when the state's focus on mandating 180 days of class is bigger then ever, and follows recent school closures due to freezing temperatures.
"Before we start making decisions as to whether or not these days will be excused, we're going to wait until the end of the crisis," Cordeiro said. "We also have to look at the bigger picture and make sure that kids have those 180 days. As the winter season continues, we'll look at how bad it gets. We haven't made that decision yet."
Principals, custodians, school cooks and maintenance personnel met on Monday in Kanawha County to design contingency plans for safe water use.