As education and public health officials contemplate complex decisions related to school closures, bans on public gatherings, and other measures to slow the spread of Coronavirus, you are faced with having to make swift and confident recommendations and decisions that affect your students, staff and school community. By now, you have begun the necessary collaboration and coordination efforts with the local health department, emergency management agencies, state and local agencies, staff and parents in order to make timely decisions based off the health and wellness needs of your community. As you know, there are no easy answers.
The many resources that are available to schools continue to be developed and published to ensure school districts have the most up-to-date information.
As members of the National Council of School Board Attorneys (COSA), we are monitoring and participating in communications with our school attorney colleagues nationwide who are grappling with the many common issues being confronted by our school clients.
Pressing issues related to school closures include:
- Employee compensation during closure
- Distance learning opportunities
- Provision of breakfast and lunch meals
- Special Education services
- Spring break travel
- Quarantine issues
US Dept of Education releases FAQ on Providing Services to Students with disabilities during COVID-19 Outbreak
This information answers the most common questions schools have about when and how they must provide instruction, including when to consider use of online or virtual instruction and other curriculum-based instructional activities.https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-covid-19-03-12-2020.pdf
If an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE. (34 CFR §§ 104.4, 104.33 (Section 504) and 28 CFR § 35.130 (Title II of the ADA)). SEAs, LEAs, and schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student's IEP developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504. (34 CFR §§ 300.101 and 300.201 (IDEA), and 34 CFR § 104.33 (Section 504)).
US Dept of Education releases FERPA and COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Education has released FERPA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), link below. This publication answers several questions that school officials have had concerning the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students' education records to outside entities when addressing the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/resources/ferpa-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Conference
Summary from 3/11/20:
The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs held a conference yesterday at 10 a.m. Apparently, there were many technical difficulties accessing the call. Here is a summary from a COSA member posted on COSA Digest today.
Representative of Health and Human Services (HHS), CDC, Homeland Security, HUD, Small Business Administration, and the Department of Education provided the following information:
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will begin making funds available from the recently passed Coronavirus appropriation next week to state and local agencies.
- CDC will begin making additional purchases of test kits, respirators and personal protective equipment as soon as possible.
- 2.4 million lab tests for COVID-19 have been conducted since March 2, and 3 million more tests are expected to be conducted in the next week.
- Public health labs in all 50 states are now up and running but there are some shortages of testing supplies in some areas.
- Lab Corp and Quest, the two biggest private testing labs will begin testing, however, it is not known how many tests they will be able to run.
- Concerns were expressed about the elderly, persons with chronic lung conditions and special needs children with lung conditions being at-risk for severe symptoms from COVID-19.
- Concerns were expressed about shortages of blood developing due to people's fears of going to health facilities due to COVID-19 and healthy individuals were urged to continue donating blood.
- The CDC stated that the U.S. is moving from a containment strategy to including a mitigation strategy that includes measures individual can take such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, and avoiding large public events.
- The World Health Organization today declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
- If symptoms of COVID-19 develop, even if they are mild, the individual should stay home and self-isolate for 14 days and not go to work or school so as not to infect others, particularly vulnerable populations.
- HUD, in coordination with the CDC, has developed an infectious disease toolkit for homeless shelters and homeless populations.
- The Small Business Administration is working on loan programs for small businesses that suffer economic injury due to COVID-19 which will require a declaration of emergency from the Governor.
- The Department of Education recommends listening to their website to obtain information on how to minimize disruption to learning but did not give any specifics regarding the continuation of educational services in the event of a school closure.
Resources for Elementary and Secondary Schools:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the most up-to-date information on COVID-19.
- CDC Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (February 28, 2020)
- The Readiness Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center website, https://rems.ed.gov/Resources_Hazards_Threats_Biological_Hazards.aspx, has useful information, resources, trainings, and tools for addressing infectious diseases, related topics, and protecting the school community.
- The USDA released new information on flexibilities that will allow students to access meal service during school closures.
- The Office for Civil Rights issued a Letter to Education Leaders on Preventing and Addressing potential discrimination associated with COVID-19.
- Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations: Interim Recommendations for US Community Facilities with Suspected/Confirmed Coronavirus Disease