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Additional Coronavirus Resources


Continuity of Learning
  • Refer to the May 2020 issue of WASB’s policy publication The FOCUS entitled “Providing Virtual Instruction: Some Special Considerations to Keep in Mind”  (requires log-in and is accessible only to FOCUS subscriber districts) The issue addresses a few of the special legal and other considerations and challenges that exist when school districts utilize a system of virtual instruction. Specifically, the issue addresses: (1) equity and access, (2) students with disabilities, (3) student privacy, (4) cybersecurity, and (5) copyright considerations for staff as they transition from face-to-face classroom lessons to virtual instruction.
  • Refer to the May 2020 Wisconsin Public Forum report addressing Wisconsin’s Digital Divide and its Impacts on Learning. This May 2020 report is intended to (1) broaden understanding of the number and characteristics of students in Wisconsin who lack reliable home internet access and (2) look at strategies implemented both in Wisconsin and elsewhere to help these students.
  • Academic Assessments – Both state and federal laws require the administration of statewide assessments in the 2020-21 school year. According to the DPI, there has been no change in testing requirements at this time. As a result, schools should plan to meet these requirements, including for students who are receiving instruction remotely. Refer to DPI’s updated resource entitled “Strategies and Considerations for In-Person Assessment During a Pandemic”, which provides considerations for district and school leaders to plan and administer assessments this spring.
  • Student Record Information and Privacy – Refer to U.S. Department of Education’s Student Privacy Policy Office FERPA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources, which include FAQ’s and information related to virtual learning. Refer to the recording of the Student Privacy Policy Office’s March 30 webinar entitled “FERPA & Virtual Learning During COVID-19” which, among other things, addresses commonly asked questions related to the challenges of complying with student privacy laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) during this time and presents a series of scenarios which highlight privacy best practices and considerations when adopting distance learning approaches.
    • Refer to U.S. Department of Education’s 9/24/20 blog post for additional information on disclosure of information regarding COVID-19 cases in the school community.
  • Cybersecurity Recommendations for Students and Staff – School districts should be aware of malicious activity that threatens the security of remote learning. Refer to the CISA’s fact sheet on Cyber Threats to K-12 Remote Learning Education/CISA (issued December 2020).
  • Wisconsin School Library Information – Refer to DPI’s COVID-19 information relevant to Wisconsin school libraries for information and resources related to such topics as student access to school library resources, cybersecurity and data privacy, copyright, Common School Fund Expenditures, circulation of library books and materials, and collaboration with public libraries.
    • State law provides that money generated by the Common School Fund be used for the purchase of library books and other instructional materials for school libraries and for the purchase of instructional materials from the State Historical Society for use in teaching Wisconsin history. However, in addition, a school district may use Common School Funds to purchase school library computers and related software if the school board consults with the person who supervises the school district’s libraries and the computers and software are housed in the school library. The DPI is encouraging school library media specialists to allocate Common School funds to allowable online resources, such as eBooks, audiobooks and research databases. The DPI has advised that if districts are unable to spend their 2019-20 Common School Fund allocation in full, the unspent portion should be coded as restricted fund balance (10 B 936130) and spent in 2020-21. These changes should be noted in the district’s long-range library plan.
  • Council of Chief State School Officers Resources – Refer to CCSSO recommendations for remote learning. These recommendations have been vetted for quality and provide free high-quality instructional materials aligned to different types of remote learning from printed packets to virtual instruction. The CCSSO runs the High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development Network that currently supports eight states, including Wisconsin.
  • U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology ResourceParent and Family Digital Learning Guide (issued 10/23/20 – This guide is intended to help parents/caregivers monitor their child’s progress as the child accesses and uses technology for learning.)
Continuity of Learning - Equity & Access

EQUITY & ACCESS

COVID-19 is highlighting and widening educational inequities previously existing in our school system and disproportionately impacting some communities and groups of students. It is important for school districts to keep in mind equity and access issues when planning and providing for continuity of learning.  To help districts take an equitable approach to educational planning, the DPI has established specific questions that school leaders and educators should consider when planning to return to school. These questions can be found on DPI’s website.

Students with Disabilities

    • On 10/21/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a Q & A document to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C provision of services in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 9/28/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a Q & A document to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B provision of services in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 7/6/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a Q & A document to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C evaluation and assessment timelines in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 6/30/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued Q & A documents to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B and Part C procedural safeguards in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 6/25/20, the U.S. DOE’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued Q & A documents to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B and Part C use of funds provisions in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 6/22/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued Q & A documents to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B and Part C dispute resolution procedures in the current COVID-19 environment.
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  • The DPI reminds districts that regardless of the method of instruction (e.g. in person, hybrid, distance), state and federal special education requirements remain in effect. Districts must continue to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with an individualized education program (IEP). While most students are able to receive FAPE effectively through distance learning options, some students with disabilities are not. When working with local health departments to make decisions, districts should specifically discuss whether limited in-person individual and/or small group instruction or services can be safely provided to the small number of students with IEPs who require it in order to access FAPE. “If districts are unable to provide these services, either because there is a health order that prohibits it or it has been determined through consultation with the local health department that it is unsafe to do so, districts must determine and provide compensatory education to these students when in-person instruction and services becomes available.”

  • May 2020 WASB Legal Comment entitled “Compensatory Education Services for Students with Disabilities: The Continuing Consequences of COVID-19” (member log in required).

English Learners

Homeless Children and Youth

Continuity of Learning - Waivers & Flexibility

WAIVERS & FLEXIBILITY

The DPI has authority under section 118.38 of state statutes to grant waivers to school districts from many of the requirements found in Chapters 115 to 121 of the state statutes and in DPI’s administrative rules.

  • On September 11, the DPI updated the Regulatory Flexibility Framework for the 2020-21 school year to address additional topics of interest to school districts and additional possible waiver options. The framework consists of two parts: a COVID-19 flexibility application form and a series of policy provisions on key topics to address districts’ flexibility needs. The COVID-19 flexibility application provides a process for requesting multiple waivers from statutory and administrative rule requirements for the 2020-21 school year all at once in a simplified manner. It can be used at any time in the school year and is set up as a rolling application. Completing an application does not preclude a district from requesting waivers outside of the application process.
    • During the current pandemic, it is recognized that districts have the flexibility when needed to implement changes to how a program is delivered, how much of a program is delivered, and who delivers it. According to the DPI, temporary variations like this to planned school operations DO NOT need a waiver.
    • A waiver should be pursued only where a district anticipates or has determined it cannot offer a program or service required under the law during the 2020-21 school year. In addition, a waiver will be needed if a district does not anticipate being in compliance with a statutory requirement by virtue of the design of its plan of instruction. There will likely be few of these situations. Where this is the case, the district should complete a request for waiver from a particular statute and explain the circumstances that will require a formal waiver.
    • Districts can apply for a waiver on behalf of one school, more than one school, or on a district-wide basis.
    • School districts may also submit more than one application.
    • Prior to requesting any state law waivers, school boards are reminded that they must first hold a public hearing, as per section 118.38(1)(b) of the state statutes. According to DPI guidance, such public hearings may be conducted virtually or by teleconference. The DPI also reminds districts to remain attentive to Open Meetings Law concerns, as further covered in guidance issued by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (see DOJ’s March 16 advisory and a related supplement issued on March 20).
    • School districts granted waivers to some state law requirements under section 118.38 of state statutes due to COVID-19 (e.g., instructional hour waivers and others) for the 2019-20 school year are reminded that those waivers were for “one year only,” according to the DPI. Due to statutory language in section 118.38 that states that waivers granted under that section are effective for four years, some districts may have assumed that an approved waiver would carry over to 2020-21, if needed. If a district determines that it needs any waivers of the applicable requirements for the 2020-21 school year, the district should pursue such waivers through separate requests and approvals as outlined above.

 

  • Student Attendance and Truancy – Student attendance must be recorded for in person, virtual, or remote instruction, according to the DPI. Standard attendance reporting practices and guidance apply when reporting student attendance for in-person instruction. When taking attendance in virtual (digital, analog, synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid) instructional settings, there are multiple options. Examples of how to take attendance in virtual instruction settings may include: Learning Management System Records; evidence of daily work; submission or completion of assignment, module, exam; system log-in; weekly progress reports; attendance taken in synchronous event(s) – student is present during event and educator collects evidence that student accessed the event (if recorded); contact or activity logs; pacing charts or adequate course progress; daily check-in with student (virtual meeting, email connection, phone); regular weekly check-ins with parents/guardians.
  • Open Enrollment Virtual Instruction – Under state law, a student open enrolled into a nonresident school district has all of the rights and privileges of resident students. According to the Regulatory Flexibility Framework, if a school district offers a virtual instruction program in response to concerns under the current pandemic, either as one of several options or as the only option, the school district must offer the same program to open enrolled students.

 

    • Fire, Tornado and Safety Drills – Under state law, fire drills must be conducted at least once each month, tornado or other hazard drills twice per year, and school safety incident drills twice per year. According to the Regulatory Flexibility Framework, fire drills must be conducted at least once each month that the school is occupied with students. If there are concerns about having that many students in the hallways at one time, then drills may be conducted in phases so each classroom is eventually covered. If in-person classes are held, then drills must be conducted in accordance with the requirements. If all classes are virtual and there are no in-person classes, then drills do not have to be performed.
      • Refer to the 10/1/20 DOJ Office of School Safety Newsletter for information on conducting safety drills in a pandemic.
      • The reasons for not holding any required drills must be included in the annual fire and other drill report with the chief of the fire department, as required by law.
Everyday Preventive Actions

Public health officials recommend individuals take Everyday Preventive Actions to help stop the spread of germs and prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. The CDC offers several free handwashing resources that include health promotion materials, information on proper handwashing technique and tips for families to help children develop good handwashing habits.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Put distance between yourself and others (6 feet or more). Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus. Do not gather in groups, stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If you are in a private setting and do not have a cloth face covering on, remember to always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is encouraging school districts to consult with their local or county public health department regarding the cleaning of schools in preparation for the summer and the eventual reopening of schools. On May 14, the CDC issued Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Schools and Other Workplaces and Businesses.

 

USE OF FACE COVERINGS – On 2/4/21, the Assembly concurred in a joint resolution (SJR3) previously passed by the Senate, resulting in the termination of both Executive Order #104 and a companion Emergency Order regarding face coverings that had been issued by Governor Evers on January 19, 2021. However, after the Assembly action was announced, Governor Evers immediately signed Executive Order #105 (2/4/21) and Emergency Order #1 (2/4/21) establishing a statewide public health emergency and, once again, requiring face coverings in public places to protect public health and safety. The new orders are effective immediately. The Governor’s February 4th orders reflect an ongoing power struggle between the Governor and the Republicans in the state legislature over the Governor’s authority to issue successive emergency declarations and emergency orders. Court challenges to previous orders are still pending.

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