CARES Act: emergency COVID-19 relief package and critical aid to WA state

The CARES Act is aimed at reducing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by authorizing $2.1 trillion in aid to support various sectors of the economy.  It is huge and therefore will take expert examination in the coming weeks to interpret the fine print details.  For now, here are a few key things included that directly relate to our State:

SAT Future Testing Opportunities

There is a lot of anxiety about how the Covid-19 crisis will affect the college application process. The College Board has conveyed the following:

A Big List of Podcasts for Little Kids

Looking for something positive to share with your families?
The NY Time gathered a list of great podcast episodes to interest and occupy kids ages 2 – 6, and their caretakers!

Child care centers are essential to the economy. But can they survive the coronavirus pandemic?

The public health crisis is highlighting a fundamental problem with the country’s child care system, she said. “Parents can’t afford to pay the costs of the quality care that’s needed and at the same time, child care providers are subsidizing the expense with their own low wages.” It’s an essential public service that’s being supported by individuals.

Urgent: Senate CARES Act relevant to private schools

WFIS Educators and Families - your advocacy effort is needed at this time! The big “Phase 3” Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) is at a critical stage of consideration in Congress right now.  Currently there is a provision allowing for...

Washington education officials: school must continue, even during coronavirus closures

WA state officials are asking schools to develop weekly plans for students, including those with disabilities, and to contact families on a regular basis. Teachers are expected to monitor students’ progress, help them set goals and offer online or paper-based instruction depending on students’ preferences. They provided educators with a long list of free virtual tools for teachers, students and parents and offered a sample “plan” for how districts could roll out distance learning.

Student Privacy rights in coronavirus era

EducationDive March 24, 2020 by By Shawna De La Rosa Organizations team up to advise administrators on privacy rights in coronavirus era Dive Brief: The Future of Privacy Forum and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, are teaming up to help K-12 and higher...

Remote Principal-ing: Day 2

Patrick Russell is the Middle & High School Principal at Mount Vernon Christian School. He shared his Day 2 Principal-ing Video with the WFIS Board today. It conveys Pat’s sweet and clever nature that makes him the beloved school leaders his community adores!

Inslee asks schools to provide community support during social distancing

Gov. Inslee has banned gatherings & events of more than 250 amid coronavirus outbreak, while calling upon schools to remain as community support for student social services and prepare for possible closure in coming days.  

WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

While China appears on the verge of stopping its outbreak — it reported only 24 cases on Tuesday — outbreaks are occurring and growing in a number of locations around the world including Italy, Iran and the United States.

Washington’s state superintendent shares his coronavirus strategy

Education Dive spoke to Washington’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to better understand how districts in affected areas are responding and what other education leaders across the country can learn from one of the first states to be impacted. 

Covid-19 updates

Daily Covid-19 information for Washington State private schools including agency protocol, expert perspectives, input from schools, and important links.

WFIS Updates related to our private schools

Early Learning Support through CARES Act 3/29/20

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect April 1, and remains in effect through December 31, 2020. Two key provisions that pertain to schools are Paid Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) was signed into law on March 27th. There are several key provisions that can support and impact schools, child-care centers and their employees including Small Business Administration loans, expanded unemployment benefits, and relief to schools.

 

  • $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to ensure continued payment and assistance to child care providers and to support child care for essential workers; Estimated state allocations for Washington for CCDBG is $ 56,813,048.
  • $750 million in grants for Head Start, including up to $500 million for support of summer programs.
  • Access to small business loans of up to $10 million that can be forgiven, if programs use the loans for specific purposes such as wages, paid sick or family leave, health insurance benefits, retirement benefits, mortgages or rent, or utilities.
  • Direct payments to qualifying taxpayers of up to $1,200 ($2,400 for couples), plus an additional $500 per child.
  • Access to a pandemic unemployment insurance benefit for four months, on top of the regular unemployment insurance benefit offered by states to qualifying individuals.
  • Suspension of payments on federally-held student loans to support the many early childhood educators earning their degrees and credentials.
  • Both non-profit and for-profit child care providers with less than 500 employees will be eligible to apply for small business loans of which 8 weeks of payroll, mortgage/rent & utility payments, are eligible for loan forgiveness. Midsize and large child care providers may receive federal loan assistance through the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Act.
  • An additional $20 billion in funding for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which allows states to award funds to early childhood education programs and services.
Monday 3/23/20 WFIS Update

In the last 48hrs WFIS has received a great deal of information and new questions are coming into view throughout the day. Below is a summary of key conversations & links to resources.

Private School Law

WFIS would like to encourage our schools to share updates on legal considerations fellow school leaders should be thinking about.  Force majeure is a term you should become familiar with, and if you have not already, discuss with legal counsel.  

Fisher Phillips is answering questions specific to private schools:  https://www.fisherphillips.com/resources-alerts-comprehensive-covid-19-strategy-plan-for-independent  

Please send the questions from your communities to WFIS.  Thank you.

 

State CAPE

WFIS is partnering with the California State advocacy organization CAPSO and the State CAPE network to work on a system for collecting financial hardship data that will be uniform across the country.  WFIS is gathering information from WA schools to determine in what ways schools will need support from the federal and local government. We want to know what the pinch points are for your schools.  Remember to keep a running list or excel spreadsheet of what your school is spending due to COVID-19 shutdowns.  

The State CAPE networked asked Donna Orem, president of NAIS to speak at this morning’s Zoom meeting.  NAIS is providing support for members and nonmembers on their website by creating a forum for  “Sharing Solutions” amongst schools – a touch point for current news and for reimagining the future.  This resource page will be open late Monday afternoon.  Topics will include anything from risk management to online learning solutions.

NAIS is sponsoring a webinar this Thursday relevant to private schools: 

Education in Uncertainty: Using Polarity Thinking to Face New ChallengesTogether, we will explore how polarity thinking can help education leaders navigate the most complex issues by identifying – is this a problem or a polarityThursday, March 26, 2020 1:00 p.m. EST 

 
State Board of Education:

The Legislature has given the SBE authority to determine credit requirements for seniors who were “on track to graduate.”  The State Board will not be in charge of granting credit, but rather waiving the required credits.  

Private schools define their school credits, so each will need to make the determination of what has been earned by students.  Schools need to decide if they are implementing a distance learning program which students complete necessary work and earn credit for completing this semester, and How?  Or, will your school be seeking a waiver of course(s) credit from the State Board?

WFIS asked SBE to demonstrate flexibility within their new rules.  Private schools will not need to apply for the waiver for of the ‘1000 hours or 180 days’ requirement:  The State Board will be granting a general waiver.  SBE will await legislative authority for new credit rules for students in other grades, who are not Seniors.  

WFIS is meeting with SBE today at 3pm.

 

Early Learning

Early learning (serving ages 0-6) are some of the most vulnerable educational programs.  If parents can’t use them, in many cases they do not pay.  Therefore, there is much negotiation happening with the Governor’s Office around how early learning programs will be protected from economic failure.  

Some schools want to continue to offer childcare that includes care for children 5-12 years old. These programs are trying to figure out:

  • How will their programs manage the risk & responsibility to the staff providing care?  
  • What kinds of assurances will the schools convey to families as well as staff?  
  • What can the State do to protect & support programs that want to stay open?  

 

WIAA Updates:

Keep up-to-date on what is happening to athletic programs with WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman’s 2-minute drills   WIAA is creating emergency guidelines to ensure if schools open in May, there will be athletic and activity opportunities for students.

 

 

Launch of Covid-19 Resource Page for WA Private Schools

Dear Private School Community Members,

On this page, WFIS will share information, answer questions, and connect you to model communication with parents.

Know you are part of a community of educators who are also dealing with the hardships of this crisis.  The decision-making, tracking down accurate information, following the news, and keeping up with what other schools are doing is taking up a lot of time and creating much stress.  We hope this webpage will help.

Should you have any specific questions about this content contact us.  WFIS seeks your insight to grow support for our private school communities.

 
With Care,
Suzie
 
 
Suzie Hanson, Executive Director of WFIS
 
WFIS Update on Federal & State Agency Guidance & Rules 3/17/20

Each day, WFIS meets with the State CAPE Network, which are fellow State private education advocacy organizations like WFIS from across the country to share notes.

Each week in separate meetings WFIS talks to State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, the State Board of Education, and The Department of Children, Youth and Families.

Notes from State CAPE Network early morning meetings March 16 & 17, 2020:

DOCUMENT EXPENSES:  ALL private schools should document expenses associate with the COVID-19 outbreak.  Some of those expenses might include:  instructional materials, cleaning, and tuition.

Opportunity for Colleges and Universities – Graduation requirements are in flux and there is a lack of clarity about SAT, ACT and AP testing.  This may be an opportunity for higher education to look deeply at acceptance practices and values.  There will also be a need for educator to reformulate their expectations for incoming students and their knowledge base.

Legislation –  Bobby Scott (VA) and Sen. Patty Murray (WA) have introduced a supplemental funding bill that focuses exclusively on education. It is a $3B dollar proposal half going to K12 and the other half going to higher Ed. Non-Public schools are included in this bill and it does allow for the local education agency is to keep “control of funds” so therefore we would not be considered direct recipients of federal funding. The link to details about the bill is HERE.

A single bailout for private schools that are in financial straights may cost less than the state needing to educate all of private school students next year.  New York and California are currently considering several measures to request financial support.

Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) meeting morning of March 16, 2020:

There is very little confirmed guidance from DCYF about how to respond to the crisis at this time, but it is coming.  During the call-in meeting, providers had so many questions:  Will subsidy rates still be paid if a program shuts down?  Will there be a waiver for ratios and group sizes?   Who can run a “seasonal camp” program starting immediately in their schools?  How are programs supposed to get food and access to supplies?

Need for Childcare –  Washington may need more childcare for healthcare workers, first responders and essential government officials.  Guidance by the Department of Children, Youth and Families, should be out soon for how to expand childcare programs at your schools.

With the increase in numbers of children at programs across the country, there are food shortages.  DCYF is working out how to support the request that all children get fed, but it is unclear still how this will be implemented.  AS we await guidance, know WFIS will share details as soon as received.

Meeting with the State Board of Education (SBE) meeting afternoon March 16, 2020:

The SBE will be crafting a waiver from the mandated hours/ days for this school year. This waiver will allow flexibility from state requirements, but does not help mitigate parent expectations and school tuition contracts.

Waivers from state mandate for days/hours will most likely not require an application, but rather it will be an acceptance by the State Board that there is no way schools will be able to make up the missed time.

Course credits and how graduation requirements will change is still being discussed.  All schools and students are in this together and graduation requirements will be different than in any other year, for everyone.

Information from OSPI

Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction has created Guidance for Long-term School Closures as of March 13, 2020 

What WFIS is Hearing from Schools

Private schools are thinking about:

  • What to do about the renewal of contracts for teachers?
  • How to continue to offer an education program that warrants parents tuition payments?
  • How to sustain enrollment for next year?; How to pay current salaries for teachers and hourly pay for teachers and staff?
  • Whether to open up school buildings for childcare?
  • With religious schools employees exempt from unemployment, how will they fair if they don’t have work?

Learning from Home

 
Zoom 'How-To’s' for Educators

Review the following videos and documents to help students and teachers get up and running with Zoom:

The week of March 30th, Zoom released two updates to their system specifically focused on student protection and support for educators to ensure safe & appropriately controlled environments:

  1. Protecting the Privacy of K-12 StudentsClick here to view the full Zoom for K-12 Schools & Districts Privacy Policy.
  2.  Virtual Waiting Room  – Starting April 2nd, the Waiting Room feature will be automatically turned on by default. For more information on adjusting your Waiting Room settings, click hereThis security enhancement is one of the best ways to control who’s entering your Zoom virtual classroom by giving you the option to admit participants individually or all at once.  Watch this quick video breaking down how to admit participants from your waiting room into the meeting. Watch Now →

Zoom has a blog where users highlight some best practices for securing virtual classrooms. Read Blog →

 

Equity in Teaching: some things to consider

 

  • How can uniformity between teachers at same grade level be implemented in the lessons offered to students?
  • What is the standard of care expected from teachers at every level?
  • What kind and how often will teachers have direct contact with students?
  • How will teachers be informed or included in decision-making about expectations?
  • How will teachers be accountable for student learning/outcomes;
  • How will clear expectations be communicated and re-communicated to parents about distance learning plan?
  • Regular administration communication with parents;
  • Can the school communicate the expectation that parents need to continue to pay tuition so that teachers can be paid?
  • Will the school pay for hourly staff while school closed?
Internet access for students

Comcast Increases Access to ‘Internet Essentials’ through Coronavirus Pandemic

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Speeds will increase from 15/2 MBPS to 25/3 for all new and existing customers, and will become the speed of the service going forward.
  • New families who connect will get 60 days of Internet service for free.
  • The Internet Essentials program is normally available to all qualified low-income households in Comcast’s service area for $9.95/month.

Learn More

Being a distance student is different

Try to imagine what this change will be like for your students. Gone is the closeness of friends, of easily getting together for group projects, study sessions, conversations and discussions. Gone is their ability to meet with teachers after class for extra help, or to ask a follow-up question. Everything now will be mediated by a computer screen and time management and the vagaries of internet connection. Students may or may not function well in an online environment so being prepared around some of their challenges is important. Additionally, when not in school, some students may be tempted to do other things than school work, so managing student motivation and attendance can become an issue—it is easy to fall behind, especially with asynchronous distance learning models.

  1. Some things you might consider:
    1. Holding a focus group with students to understand their fears and what they will find challenging.
    2. How to engage students so they do not feel isolated. Could you create things like a virtual lunchroom, or study halls? How about group email forums for grades and/or classes?
    3. Clarity around expectations for submitting work: what format should be used and how should it be organized so the teacher can make sense of what a student has submitted? Imagine receiving a final paper assignment as 15 one-page PDF files out of order per student per a class of 20 students—mayhem.
    4. In what format will a student receive feedback, and how can you be sure they understand what you have communicated? Expect to do a lot more writing to explain or help students understand a concept. Doing screencasts can be useful.
    5. What are the expectations for class participation (group or individually)?
    6. Will you have office hours for teachers, and how will students understand how to contact a teacher?
    7. Will you be offering student support services (school counselor role); if so, how?
    8. If a student falls behind in work, or does not show up to virtual class, what will you do?
    9. Offering some general rules around video chats (use of video or just audio, what are they wearing, what is in the background, background noise, etc.)
 
Excerpt from NAIS article Tips for Setting Up Distance Learning with insight from Oak Meadow an Accredited online learning platform.  
5 essential tips to structure your day in this unstructured time
Structure and time management are two of the most essential skills for efficiently teaching online. Below are important strategies you can apply along the way.
 
1. Conduct essential self-care activities first, preferably right after you wake. Yes, you should still get up and brush teeth, comb hair, shave, and/or even put on makeup (where applicable) if you know at some point you’ll need to be seen—even if only by video. (Importantly, during this time of uncertainty, you do not want to find yourself in an emergency situation in which you have to leave your home quickly. If you’re already dressed, you’ll be able to do this at a moment’s notice.)
You will be tempted to just roll out of bed and tiptoe downstairs for some coffee. Then while you’re conducting your morning browse of your notifications, news, and a myriad of other things we check on our phones when we have a quiet moment, you’ll be tempted to respond to emails. That morphs into trying to problem-solve, and then you’ve somehow shifted into completing work activities.
2. Plan your week, and schedule the tasks you need to get done. That means you need to set specific times for specific tasks to maintain structure for your day. While a to-do list is a useful visual tool, if your tasks are not set for specific times and lengths of time, you will ultimately find yourself struggling to get things done.
Schedule the most important, must-get-done today, essential activities first. Checking and responding to emails can seem essential, but it can become a rabbit-trail activity that leads to more rabbit-trail activities that could likely end in hours passing of unproductivity.
Remember to schedule your household chores to determine which chores will get done and when.
3. Set some alarms on your phone to enforce structure. There will be no bells ringing to remind you that valuable time is passing. The key to making this work, is setting realistic time limits on your work. We often underestimate how long a task will take.
4. Meal prep the night before or first thing in the morning, especially if you have children at home. And then be diligent about scheduling those meal and break times logically throughout your day.
Working from home can easily become a marathon of sitting in a chair and snacking while typing away at the computer until your body suffers. Just mindlessly snacking while you work can easily usher in an unhealthy eating habit. You can ward off burnout by carving out adequate time to take a break, actually enjoy what you’re eating, and rest your brain.
5. Get out, and get some fresh air as much as possible. Seriously, take advantage of the flexibility that comes with working from home. You could even choose to set up your workstation on your patio or in your yard, if your internet range will allow it. If you have the capability to go to a park or another place you enjoy, do that, too.
Even though structure and time management are important, this is an unusual time in history, so allow yourself some flexibility. Every day won’t go exactly according to plan, and that’s okay. The point is to keep yourself healthy.
 
From article shared in Ed Week by Kiesha Easley, a certified educator in Columbia, S.C., with over 17 years of teaching experience, nine of which have been online. She also offers wellness coaching for educators.

Guidance on Policy & Communication

Federal & State Agency messages

 
3/27 SBE Waivers vote: updated timeline

The State Legislature passed a new law (EHB 2965) supporting the state’s response to the novel coronavirus. This law includes a provision (see Section 10) that allows the State Board of Education grant an emergency waiver to local education agencies (e.g., school districts, etc.) and private schools. The waiver will provide flexibility so students in the graduating Class of 2020 or earlier who were on track to graduate are not held back by school closures due to the novel coronavirus.

Under the emergency waiver program, the State Board of Education may waive credit-based graduation requirements in addition to school day and instructional hour requirements for private schools. The law does not require an application for the private schools’ waiver. 
 
The State Board of Education is working with partners to review different scenarios and considerations to ensure the program rules effectively support students, schools, and communities. The Board vote to adopt emergency rules is scheduled for the 8th.  If all goes according to schedule, the draft rules will be available for review by the public on April 6, with the deadline for public comment on the rules due the next day.

3/24 NEW federal provisions on Paid Sick Leave & FMLA

Last night Congress passed, and the president signed, a coronavirus aid package that includes provisions on paid sick leave and FMLA.  Attached below are summaries from Fisher & Phillips and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops that might be helpful.

Overview of Emergency Paid Sick Leave and FLMA

New FLMA Law

New Paid Sick Leave Law

3/24 FCC suspends E-Rate regulations

After hearing from more than 7,500 district superintendents, school board members, principals, teachers, and families the FCC has agreed to allow the federal E-rate program to fund internet access for more than 50 million students nationwide, as well as hospitals and libraries, with focus on typically underserved rural communities.

From the FCC announcement last week:

“…changes to the Rural Health Care (RHC) and E-Rate programs that will make it easier for broadband providers to support telehealth and remote learning efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau has waived the gift rules until September 30, 2020 to enable service providers to offer, and RHC and E- Rate program participants to solicit and accept, improved connections or additional equipment for telemedicine or remote learning during the coronavirus outbreak.”

Read the full press announcement FCC – Suspension of Gift Rules

3/18 CAPE letter to US Senate for Inclusion in K12 School Support

SUMMARY

“The non-public school community is grateful for inclusion in the proposed Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act (S. 3489). We appreciate language that requires “assurance” that the Local Education Agency (LEA) “has taken the needs of…non-public schools into account” and that non-public schools receive notification of funds awarded to the LEA. We also support the “Control of Funds” language.

However, in practice, we have seen from experience that if the LEAs do not officially count the non-public school community in the grant request, they are almost certain to not include non-public schools in the expediting of services or materials purchased with awarded funds. LEAs are familiar with this element of equity in other federal education programs, and the use of already existing language would aid in ensuring smooth implementation of a new relief package.”

CAPE COVID-19 recommendations 03-18-20

3/17 SBE Deadline for Private School Approval Applications Extended

The deadline for private school approval applications is extended from April 1 to April 15, 2020. Schools that complete and submit their application by April 15 will have their approval addressed at the May 2020 State Board of Education Meeting. More information about the approval process may be found on State Board of Education private school approval web page.

What Schools Can Do

 
In person AP exams cancelled

Posted by a College Board peer re: AP exams

Traditional face-to-face AP exam administrations will not take place for the 2019-2020 academic year.  For the 2019–20 exam administration only, students can take a 45-minute online exam at home. There will be 2 different testing dates for each AP subject.

Students will be able to take these streamlined exams on any device they have access to—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 25, you can attend free, live AP review courses, delivered by AP teachers from across the country. These courses:

  • Are optional, mobile-friendly, and can be used alongside any work your teacher may give you.
  • Will be available on-demand, so you can access them any time.
  • Will focus on reviewing the skills and concepts from the first 75% of the course. There will also be some supplementary lessons covering the final 25% of the course.

Updates: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update?excmpid=FB-ED-CB-1

Remote Learning Resources: 

https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates#free-ap-classes

Parent Concerns

Communicate to parents more than you think is necessary and have accurate information and a plan.  Parents want to know you are in the know and whether or not you are planning on closing their school.  Have a plan for what your school will do to continue the education of its students when/if the school is closed for 2 weeks or longer.

Employee Compensation for Schools

Private schools should consider the following in determining their employee compensation in their decision making:

  • The ADA and WLAD are still operative until a public health emergency or pandemic is declared. When dealing with ill employees, address symptoms or exposure, not diagnoses, in determining if an employee should go home.
  • Being generous with sick leave will encourage exposed and ill employees to quarantine and is in the best interest of public safety. You may choose to adopt a temporary Public Safety policy.
  • An employee who chooses to self-quarantine who has not been exposed, is not in a high risk group, or caring for a family member who is, may be required to use any available non-medical leave, such as regular PTO.
  • An employee who is quarantined because of exposure, is in a high risk group, or is caring for someone who is, should be able to access health care leave benefits. Schools may adopt a temporary Public Safety policy to this effect.  Whether the employee can access PFML is not a decision in the school’s control.
  • An employee who is ill or caring for a family member who is ill should be able to access all available leave.

 

If the school chooses to close and teach remotely:

  • If employees are teaching remotely or otherwise providing service to the school, this is work and they are entitled to be paid.
  • If employees are ill and not teaching remotely or performing other school related services, they should access available leave pay.

 

This is a general advisory only and any individual decisions should be made in consultation with your lawyer.  Additionally, expect to see rapid changes in guidance and response as the situation evolves.  Now that a pandemic has been declared ‘force majeure clauses‘ are valid.  Check your policy handbooks and with your legal counsel & insurance broker regarding business interruption coverage.

Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions

As WFIS responds to Covid-19 iquestions from private schools, we’ll post the inquiries we hear frequently and wherever possible also provide links to appropriate resources.
 
 
If you have a question that is not being resolved, please contact us directly, and we’ll do our best to get you an accurate answer.
Where can private schools get legal insight on Covid-19 issues?
The private school advocacy group in Texas has shared a webinar about human resource and legal issues connected to COVID-19.

It covers teacher contracts, paid leave, and reassignment of duties among many other topics to help you navigate the muddy waters.
Access a link to the recorded session here.  A link to the power point presentation here.

A special thank you to Fisher Phillips for providing us with this important and timely information.

For questions, please contact Kristin Smith at klsmith@fisherphillips.com.
How are schools going to provide 180 days/ 1000 hours if closed for 2 weeks? And if a school falls short, what happens?

WFIS is confident that the State Board is working with us and will be realistic in the face of this crisis.  Parents, however, will expect, and paid for, private schools to live up to this law.  

Many schools are crafting plans to use online platforms.  Others are planning to open during spring break and/or to extend their daily hours of operation, even preemptively starting next week.  Some private schools have extra hours or days in their current schedules; a two-week closure will have little impact.

The State Board would like private schools to use OSPI’s guidelines:

“Districts should feel confident in knowing that if schools are closed for an extended period of time, they will not be required to make up missed days and instructional hours beyond June 19.” 

Distance Learning platforms in English and other languages:

https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures/solutions

Newsfeed:

Covid-19 and schools

get the latest

Making the rapid switch to online learning

Making the rapid switch to online learning

International schools can sometimes face temporary closures due to health, political or environmental reasons. Ideally these plans are established and communicated well before a closure occurs, however, in reality many schools lack the time and resources to create such a plan.  ISS (International School Services) website offers a bounty of resources for implementing online learning.  

Below are some steps you can take right now to assist with the process. It’s important to realize school closure can often be a stressful experience for students and adults alike. Be cognizant of this and take any opportunity to be supportive and flexible.

1. Communicate as early as possible

Prepare a brief message that outlines the details of the closure to your school community. Typically this can be delivered by email, placed on the school website, online learning platforms, SMS, messaging groups or even via a traditional phone tree. It could include:

  • Rationale for closure
  • Expected duration
  • Time frame for next communication
  • A key contact for any questions

2. Establish clear expectations

Operating in an online or asynchronous manner can raise many questions for students, parents and educators (which can differ across PK-12). Here are some simple but malleable guidelines:

  • Teachers, admin and the school IT support should be available during normal working hours
  • Student classes take place at their scheduled times 
  • Recognize that early years and lower elementary students will need more time and flexibility as parents/caregivers may have limited availability

 

3. Identify a platform for online learning.

Email will be the simplest way to maintain operations. Simple guidelines can be sent to students and parents each day with activities or tasks to be completed. Give the community as much lead time as possible before commencing online classes. This provides parents with the necessary time to review expectations and assist if needed.

Want to step the collaboration up a notch with nearly zero setup? Check out www.padlet.com. Teachers can easily create separate spaces for each class to post activities, ideas and resources.  Of course many schools these days already have access to online learning platforms that can be leveraged during potential closures. Google Classroom and Edmodo are commonly used, free, and relatively easy to roll out.

4. Maintain regular contact

It’s critical to keep connected in a regular and consistent fashion. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • Regular messages from administration regarding updates on closure and status of online learning
  • An email group for staff to connect, check in and share resources
  • Easily accessible IT support

All of this can be conducted via email groups or any of the platforms listed above. The key is to keep everyone in the loop. If the closure is ongoing, it’s also wise to connect with your relevant accreditation authority (think IB or AP) to let them know if students or examinations will be affected.

5. Go with the flow 

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Expect timetabling conflicts, downtime in responses, and anxiety regarding the closure, particularly in the early days. Listen to the concerns of community and practice impressive empathy wherever possible. Encourage students and educators to explore their passions, share their favorite books, movies and games. And if you’re a leader, remember you’re not alone, there is always an international community of educators here to support you.

Seattle to offer grants up to $10K for small businesses impacted by Covid-19

by Daniel Beekman for the Seattle Times

Seattle will spend $1.5 million on grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday.

The grants will be awarded to businesses that have five or fewer employees, are owned by someone at or below 80% of the area’s median income, have a physical establishment and are being hurt by the coronavirus crisis, the mayor’s office said in a news release.

The money will be added to the city’s existing Small Business Stabilization Fund, which was initially allocated $200,000 for 2020, Durkan’s office said.

Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED), which will manage the grants, will concentrate its outreach at businesses owned by immigrants, refugees, people of color and non-English speakers in neighborhoods dealing with displacement and gentrification, the news release said.

OED will start accepting applications immediately, including through an online form.

“Our small businesses have been devastated in recent weeks, and we know the crisis will be felt for months,” the mayor said in a statement. “With this fund, we’re investing directly in our most vulnerable small businesses and doing everything possible to keep them afloat during this unprecedented moment in history.”

Education Dive interviews WA State Superintendent Chris Reykdahl about his corona virus strategy
Chris Reykdal explains how districts in affected areas are responding and what education leaders nationwide can learn from one of the first states impacted.

Since the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) put schools on alert last week, districts across the country have been preparing for higher absenteeism rates and potential closures as cases of coronavirus increase along the West Coast.

But the government agency’s brief guidance to brace for impact is complicating standard district operations, as a handful of districts in Washington state and California that have closed for deep cleanings or self-quarantines can confirm.

According to CDC’s count on Thursday afternoon, the two states had 39 and 36 reported cases, respectively. The virus has affected a handful of other states to a lesser extent, including Rhode Island, Oregon, Arizona, Wisconsin and Florida.

As the information and guidance rapidly evolves, Education Dive spoke to Washington’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to better understand how districts in affected areas are responding and what other education leaders across the country can learn from one of the first states to be impacted.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

EDUCATION DIVE: How has coronavirus affected Washington state? 

CHRIS REYKDAL: Unfortunately, this particular event has become critical because it took hold in a very fragile senior living facility. The mortality rate that people are seeing is concentrated on a high-risk population; we just happen to have a facility that is ground-zero.

But there’s a lot of anxiety from parents, and that has translated to a presumption of risk, [which] has led to schools closing.There are a dozen districts that have closed at least one school. In none of those cases was it a mandate by our public health department. The districts have made that choice.

In [almost] all cases, it was out of an abundance of caution because of contact with a third-party nexus to the school — there being two exceptions: Jackson High School in Everett, Washington, did have a confirmed case and closed, and Hazen High School in Renton, Washington.

In a letter to your superintendents, you suggested schools close instead of providing unequal access to education. Do you think that is the best course of action? 

REYKDAL: We have a couple districts that feel very poised to deliver continuous instruction at a distance through Zoom and online learning platforms. For those that don’t, we don’t tell them “no” but we have cautioned all districts to consider if they can deliver services equitably.

We’re asking them: Do you still have a way for interaction and evaluation particularly for really young learners? This might make high school, but what about 1st graders? Can you provide a [free and appropriate education] for students with disabilities? What about meals?

We’ve challenged those districts to think about the complexity of what it means to have school continue online.

When we shut down over here for a snowstorm we don’t provide meals for that day. Districts should take into consideration what it means for a school district to remain open but only online.

We’re trying to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure we understand rules around meals when schools are not operational. That’s an area where we know there’s a vulnerability for families, that there could be a real risk for families not getting nutrition.

Right now, we’re watching King County districts. I’ll be honest with you, nearly a third of our students would be living in those [districts]. ​

What are some challenges you’re facing, and how are you overcoming them?  ​

REYKDAL: Our state is organized with such local control around instruction and when school meets, so we are challenged to give them the flexibility to make good choices, but have a consistent policy framework so they’re all making it based on the same set of assumptions about their rules.

We’ve got online petitions in some of these districts trying to get schools to close, but it’s such a complex epidemiological decision and that’s challenging. You’re balancing people’s emotions with the science here.

We’re trying to use factual, technical information, and we’re always trying to signal where we might be going with future guidance. I’m using a distribution model through listervs, and I’m doing a ton of radio in our state. Our governor has been very visible, as has our secretary of health to talk about the health side of it.

Do you have tips for superintendents and state leaders who might have to go through this in the near future?  

Reykdal: From our experience, the very first thing you’re trying to do is contain this. You first contain before you presume quarantines and closures. The best way to contain this is to create a protective factor.

For any other state and region in the country: You cannot spend enough energy right now with very clear directions to families about clear personal hygiene strategies or if they have a cough or are symptomatic anyway.

The best thing we can do is stop its spread, before people talk about closures. Get your communities prepared to change their personal habits to create risk protection. We’re just all over that right now. It buys us time to make better decisions and come up with better strategies.

Sample Letters to Families

newest update from Mount Vernon Christian

3/11/20

Mount Vernon Christian School Families:

As we listen to questions, seek proper information and see how schools and communities are reacting to the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, we want to update you on what we are doing. We are in communication with local school districts daily and we are basing our decisions on information we gather from the Skagit County Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Health, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

Please find in this communication the following information:

  • Mount Vernon Christian School’s Action Steps
  • Ways in which the MVC Community can help
  • Links to organizations and information
  • Parting thoughts

Yesterday the Skagit County Department of Health made a presentation to the County Commissioners updating information. The Skagit County Public Health Officer, Dr. Liebrand, is not recommending school closures. The Health Department made additional recommendations during their presentation yesterday.

Aligned with and in response to those recommendations, the Mount Vernon Christian School has taken or is taking the following steps.

  • We had all school buildings sprayed with an approved disinfectant over the mid winter break.
  • We continue to do our normal daily cleaning with the teachers and staff wiping down all contact areas each day.
  • Middle School Athletics are cancelled until further notice.
  • All non-essential school and committee meetings are cancelled until further notice.
  • Our teachers and administrators are putting plans in place if recommendations for school closures are given. These plans include remote learning opportunities and possible pick up of materials for families.
  • We are making plans to make up our school hours if there is a mandated closure. Our plan currently is to add minutes to the beginning or ending of each day, rather than add days to the end of the year. If this becomes necessary we will send the information to families. We have built our school calendar with extra  instructional hours so that only a long closure (two weeks or more) would create the need for additional minutes.

We will make a decision regarding the musical after we receive information from the company we purchased the rights to perform from. We receive daily communication from the WIAA regarding HS Athletics and will continue to keep coaches, parents and athletes updated. At this time there is no recommendation to cancel outdoor sports.

How families and the MVC community can help:

  • If your student is sick (fever over 100 degrees F, vomiting, diarrhea, cough), please keep them home until they have been symptom free for 72 hours. Call your doctor if you are concerned about your student’s symptoms.
  • If your child is considered high risk (heart/lung disease, diabetes, medically fragile), please consult your physician for instructions.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash hands.

We will be providing updates as necessary on our website and social media pages. The Skagit County Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call the DOH Call Center at 1-800-525-0127 and press #. You can also check their webpage at Skagitcounty.net/coronavirus. Skagit County Public Health: 360-416-1500.

Other links to Information:

Parting thoughts:

  • Many of the preventive recommendations are helpful for all seasonal viruses. Consider how much healthier we all could be, and how vulnerable populations would be better off, if we practiced this level of hygiene and followed the guidelines for social distancing, when we or our children were ill. As a matter of discipleship, consider this a practical way to demonstrate how to love your neighbor as yourself.  While we may think some of this is extreme, please consider how much of it could be normal.
  • We continue to trust God who is faithful in all things and we continue to respect and follow the guidelines of those placed by Him in positions of authority. Let us not allow public opinion to replace science and God’s created order.
  • Please consider the power of prayer and the importance of our faithful testimony as Disciples of Jesus in times when many are uncertain.

Psalm 46 God Is Our Fortress (ESV)

1 God is our refuge and strength,

    a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam,

    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

    the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

    God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

    he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,

    how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

    he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

    I will be exalted among the nations,

    I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

 

Jeffrey A. Droog, Superintendent

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

3/4/20

Students and Families of MVC,

In order to best inform you of what the Washington State Board of Education, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the Washington Department of Health are recommending for schools we are passing on the following information.

One of the main recommendations at this point is that people get and process the correct information. Here are a few links which will help to inform you about what is going on and how to best deal with this virus and other seasonal flus.

Skagit County Department of Health Information

Latest State of Washington Influenza Update

Washington Department of Health School Recommendations

Here are some actions steps that we have taken at MVC:

  • All Faculty and Staff read the information provided by the Washington Department of Health regarding Coronavirus for Schools.
  • Teachers are having students wash their hands with soap and water for at least the duration of saying the ABCs. This is done prior to snack or lunch, and after using the restroom or after times like recess. MS and HS teachers are offering reminders to our older students to do the same. Hand sanitizer is available and okay, but not as good as soap and water.
  • Our custodial staff is making sure we have all the soap and supplies we need.
  • Daily Cleaning/Disinfecting and Sanitizing: Faculty and staff are wiping down all surfaces at the end of each day in their room/office area. Light Switches, door handles, desks tops, the arms of chairs and other counters as well. This daily cleaning will go on until further notice.
  • Our custodial crew is doing the same in all shared or common areas with special attention to high contact areas like door handles, etc.
  • Employees who are ill will stay home. If students appear ill, they will be sent to the office and then home. Cough, fever and shortness of breath are the three most common symptoms of this particular virus.
  • Over the break faculty and staff will be clearing as many counter and desk surfaces as possible, including office and teacher desks. Chairs will be left on the floor and pulled out from the desks. Our contracted custodial service is coming into school to use a mist disinfectant/sanitizer on all surfaces. This will be at the proper dilution rate and guarantee proper wet contact time.
  • Currently, school closure is not recommended in any areas in spite what some schools have done. We do have contingency plans in place if this is required.

I think it is important that we get our facts from the WHO, DOH and those who have the best information. News outlets have not proven to be the most reliable. We should expect that the virus will spread similar to a bad flu season. It is also important that in times when others may panic, that we demonstrate an understanding of God’s sovereignty while responding in obedience through our due diligence to follow the instructions of those in positions of authority and expertise.

Praying for health and wellness in Christ,

Jeffrey A. Droog, Superintendent

from Seattle Waldorf School
Dear SWS Community,
 
In an effort to keep you fully informed of our deliberation and decision making regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, and its impact on our school, we will be providing you with frequent updates in the coming days. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read these communications, and bringing your questions or concerns directly to us.
 
Our COVID-19 Task Force met this afternoon to review new information and provide guidance as we move into the week. This group is composed of our senior administrative leadership, trustees, and a number of medical professionals with real-time information from healthcare facilities dealing directly with the coronavirus. In our discussion, we considered the following:


  • There have been no reported cases or reported exposures to COVID-19 in our community.
  • Public Health – Seattle & King County continues to recommend schools remain open. They also recommend avoiding large gatherings, working remotely if possible, and protecting people at higher risk of infection.
  • The absentee rate at SWS remains within the normal range for illness, with a low percentage of families keeping children at home out of caution.
  • We have implemented an Emergency Leave Policy for faculty and staff who are in a high risk category or caring for someone in that population. Thus far we are not seeing significant numbers of employee absences, and faculty want to remain in their classrooms.
  • Seattle Public Schools and many other area districts remain open.
  • While some peer NWAIS schools have elected to close proactively through mid-April, an equal number remain open. Schools are making decisions based on their specific needs and circumstances.
  • We have not yet seen reported cases of COVID-19 increasing exponentially, and we are not seeing cases reported in children, even with increased testing underway.


We then acknowledged:


  • There is an absence of information regarding under what circumstances schools that are closed would be allowed to reopen.
  • The Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County are weighing a broad range of issues that impact an array of constituencies, whereas our community at SWS may have a more narrow and unique set of needs.
  • We know that the data and information is changing rapidly and that we must be prepared to respond promptly as new circumstances emerge.
In light of the above, SWS will remain open tomorrow. At this time we do not plan to close until there is new information or protocols indicating a closure is warranted to ensure the health of the SWS community and the greater Seattle area. We do encourage and fully support families, faculty, and staff to make decisions that reflect their own health needs and personal comfort. If we see student or employee absences increase significantly, that would compel revisiting our current course of action.
 
The possibility of an extended closure is real, and we are preparing in earnest for this scenario. If you have not already completed the Technology Survey, please do. Our faculty are developing lesson plans and learning activities that will facilitate continued student learning as well as support parents during what will be a most unusual time.
 
Finally, the strong collaborative partnership between the Head of School and the Board holds our community in good stead in these challenging circumstances. We are in daily, sometimes hourly communication, and are continually evaluating the shifting landscape. The health of our students, faculty, staff, and families is at the forefront of every decision. We are grateful for your support and confidence, and we will keep you apprised as we move forward.


Warm regards,


Tracy Bennett                    Curt Eckman
Head of School                Board President



from The Bush School
Dear Bush Community,

Over the past two weeks, The Bush School’s Preparedness Team has met and deliberated about our response to the ongoing health emergency facing Seattle, King County, and the state of Washington. Our hearts go out to the families that have been directly impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). I am acutely aware that those numbers will increase exponentially in the coming weeks. 

As educators and school leaders, our work is to focus on what is best for our students, faculty, staff, and community. We have consulted with medical professionals and public health administrators, both within our community and at large. And we’ve been in regular contact with administrators at other local schools about their plans for the upcoming weeks. 

Although Bush does not have a confirmed case of COVID-19, our team has decided to close campus to students and families and to transition to remote schooling beginning tomorrow, March 9. Please review the schedule for the extended closure plan below.

This decision was made with careful consideration for the health and safety of our students and employees, and in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Based on the information we have available, we believe that this is a critical moment in the outbreak, and this closure could impact the spread of the disease. I encourage you to click on the links listed at the end of this letter to read more about what healthcare professionals are predicting about the spread of the coronavirus.

The Bush School – Extended Closure Plan
The Bush School campus will remain closed to students and families until Friday, March 27. We will re-evaluate the school’s status and will communicate any change to this status by March 20. The campus will be open briefly on Tuesday, March 10, for students and parents/guardians to pick up school supplies, check out laptops if necessary, and clean out lockers in preparation for an extended school closure. 

Monday, March 9: The campus is closed to students and families. Faculty will participate in professional development focused on remote schooling. 

Tuesday, March 10: No classes. This is an on-campus faculty work day to prepare for remote schooling. Campus is open for students (and parents/guardians) to pick up school supplies, books, and to clean out lockers and cubbies. Students with additional technology needs for remote schooling should fill out this form as soon as possible and then stop by the Commons to pick-up requested technology on Tuesday. 

Schedule for Students on Campus – Tuesday, March 10
In order to manage the number of people on campus at once, we ask that students and/or guardians come to campus briefly on Tuesday at the designated time to collect student belongings. These times are organized according to last name.

• 8:30-9:00 a.m. (A-G)
• 9:30-10:00 a.m. (H-N)
• 10:30-11:00 a.m. (O-S)
• 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (T-Z)


Wednesday, March 11- Friday, March 27: Campus is closed to students and families. Classes will be taught using remote schooling. 

Friday, March 20: The school will communicate on or before Friday, March 20 if the campus will remain closed beyond Friday, March 27. In the event that the campus remains closed beyond March 27, the soonest the campus would re-open is April 20.

Bush administrators, faculty, and staff will be accessible through email. Contact information is listed on the faculty and staff directories on the Community Portal.  All athletics (practices and games), arts (rehearsals and performances), and club activities are canceled through Friday, March 27. We recognize that this will be deeply disappointing to students who have been working hard to prepare for their seasons and performances, but we must prioritize their long-term health and safety. We will update everyone about the reopening of the athletics and arts programs as soon as any new information becomes available.

Throughout the closure, the facilities team will continue to do a deep clean of campus, supporting a healthy and clean campus for when students return. Families will also receive regular email communications from the school with new and updated information. These updates will also be posted on The Bush School Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information webpage

In the upcoming week, Lower School Director Aliya Virani, Middle School Director Jay Franklin, and Upper School Director Ray Wilson will send out a communication about schedules, course explanations,  and expectations, including attendance procedures and guidelines for the student work environment, during the weeks of remote schooling. 

We ask that you restrict your in-person social interactions during the campus closure. Congregating in groups larger than 10 in public spaces and spending time with peers showing signs of respiratory distress is more likely to contribute to the spread of the virus. School closures will not be effective unless we put into place the type of social distancing measures recommended by our local public health officials

I want to acknowledge that this situation is impacting all of us. The decision to close campus is one of the most challenging decisions I have had to make since arriving at Bush. I know it is difficult to manage our range of emotions, and the emotions of those around us, especially our children’s. As a way to remain positive in this environment, I encourage you to limit exposure to video news sources, find only certain times in the day when you are checking social media, and use this as an opportunity to eat meals together, play cards, read a book as a family, and share stories of hope and success. Be a support to a friend, a neighbor, a relative, or a stranger. Most of all, remember to experience the abundance of joy and love that surrounds us daily.

 
Regards
 
Percy

Regards,

 
Percy L. Abram, Ph.D.
(he/him/his)
Head of School | The Bush School
from NOVA School

Dear NOVA community,

As the coronavirus expands in our region, I want to update you about our preparations for maintaining a healthy school environment and in the event that a school closure becomes appropriate.

First, anyone who is sick must stay home. That includes faculty, staff, and students. Often, our dedicated NOVA community members feel compelled regardless of how they feel. School work can always be made up, and we will help students with their learning. We must insist that people who are sick stay home — even if you are in the school play! That is part of caring for our community.

We are in daily contact via email notifications and recent phone calls with local and state health departments, the CDC, and regional and national organizations. We are following their lead and directions. On Friday, the Thurston County Health Department advised us that the threat is low and we should proceed with Grand-Friends Day on Friday and the school play on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There are posters in all the bathrooms reminding folks to wash their hands; please reinforce and practice that at home, too. Flat surfaces at the school are sanitized daily if not more frequently. If you travel out of the country for work or plan to travel next month for Spring Break, please let us know your destination.

We are developing an Academic Continuity Plan to implement in the event we are required to suspend school. Implementing this plan will allow students to continue their studies remotely with teachers. This is especially important for 8th graders who are earning high school credit for Algebra, Geometry, and Spanish.

In order for this plan to be effective, we need to know which students have access to the internet and a computer at home. Please complete this very brief survey to let us plan appropriately. The direct link to the survey is XXXXXX.

If it is necessary to take any action we will communicate via email, text, and through the NOVA web site.

Here’s to good health,

Barbara

P.S.

You can learn more at DOH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

 

from La Salle High School

Dear La Salle Community,

Over the weekend Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency for Washington State in order to prepare for the potential spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our region. Governor Inslee emphasized, “This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state.”

For the past several weeks, we have been monitoring the Yakima Health District and the Center for Disease Control sites for the most up-to-date information and possible instructions and guidelines. We encourage all our families to utilize these two sources for educating themselves and staying aware of what health care experts are suggesting.

While this situation seems frightening, it is critical to note that the leading U.S. agency responding to this health crisis – the Centers for Disease Control, has emphasized there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in this country, and our overall health risk – nationally, state-wide, and locally – remains low.

We realize we have a serious obligation to ensure we at La Salle are similarly preparing and planning for any such emergency that could create large-scale impact to our community members and campus operations. To that end, we want you to be aware that we will be implementing several precautionary steps, out of an abundance of caution, to ensure we are prepared to respond to a crisis of this magnitude, should the need arise.

If it is necessary to close the campus down for any length of time, our teachers will be prepared to continue instruction remotely through our proven digital learning day protocols. Decisions regarding school-sponsored student travel will be made on a case by case basis. With several trips scheduled in the coming months please pay close attention to school communications regarding the status of these trips and other updates pertaining to our response to this virus.

Please join us in prayer for those who have been impacted by this disease and for those working to bring relief and resolution to this situation. As we partner with you during this time of precaution, we remain grateful for your continued support.

Live Jesus in our Hearts,

Ted Kanelopoulos, Principal and Tim McGree, President