May 21, 2020
These following represents guidance from the state level, but are not requirements. There may be restrictions or requirements that apply to districts based on local health orders. The DPI recommends districts work with local health authority, insurance carrier, and legal counsel in determining use of facilities.
Packing-Up, Picking-Up and Returning School Items
DPI, in consultation with DHS, is providing Packing-Up. Picking-Up, and Returning School Items during COVID-19 guidance. This guidance addresses planning for teachers and staff to safely return to school to pack up personal belongings and for students to return school-issued items and retrieve personal belongings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Infection Control and Mitigation Measures for Schools
Interim COVID-19 Infection Control and Mitigation Measures for Schools is meant to support local planning. This guidance was developed by DPI in consultation with DHS and constitutes what is considered promising practice at the current time based upon what is currently known and understood regarding COVID-19. Any decision about the use of the school should be made in consultation with local health authorities who can help assess the current level of mitigation needed based on the level of COVID-19 transmission in your community, the capacities of your local public health department and health care systems, and other relevant factors. DPI is continuing to work on related and more detailed guidance on reopening schools.
Summer Camps and Youth Sports Guidance
Application Information for Pandemic EBT Benefits
Wisconsin has been approved to issue temporary food benefits, called Pandemic EBT or P-EBT, to children who attend schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and who would normally receive free or reduced price school meals if school were not closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These benefits are in addition to the free meals being served to students at 447 sites throughout Wisconsin. The P-EBT benefits do not impact schools supplying meals to students. Students can still receive free meals from their schools at this time through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
DHS is leading this work and issued P-EBT benefits by May 10 to families whose information is on file and can be verified. Families whose information is not on file or cannot be verified will need to apply for the benefits. DHS needs your help notifying these families.
Please use this email text, provided by DHS, containing information on the application process. Schools are encouraged by DHS to copy the text, add their contact information, and share with families who would normally receive free or reduced price school meals. For more information about these benefits, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
State Superintendent Message to the Class of 2020
State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor is thinking of and celebrating Wisconsin’s Class of 2020. Please share her video congratulatory message with your graduating seniors.
April 29, 2020
Department of Health Services (DHS) Request
The U.S Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services has approved Wisconsin’s request to issue Pandemic EBT or P-EBT benefits. These are temporary food benefits that will ensure children who attend schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and who normally receive free or reduced priced school meals continue to have access to nutritious meals while schools are closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is working with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and Department of Children and Families to issue these benefits based on information on file for children receiving free and reduced price meals. Benefits will be issued in a phased approach, and if information is not available through existing data, parents or guardians will be able to apply for the benefits through a streamlined application process. See the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website for information about the benefit issuance schedule and notification to families whose information is on file.
Under DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm’s Order #28, school districts are closed through the end of the school year, which is June 30 under Wisconsin State Statutes. Absent any further orders, this means school facilities are closed through June 30 for instruction or other purposes except for the essential functions laid out in the order. This has given rise to many questions around graduation. DPI developed considerations for personally identifiable information related to virtual graduation ceremonies and is sharing a document developed by Madison and Dane County Public Health describing options around graduation based on current statewide health orders. If you have health questions around graduation options, DPI encourages you to contact your local county health department for guidance.
Summer School and Reopening Schools
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sent to the White House a draft document for approval laying out guidance around reopening some facilities, including schools. This is draft guidance that has not yet been approved. Further, any specific health orders would come from DHS or your local county health department. DPI will be looking at CDC guidance and working with DHS and education groups, as the department develops guidance for the reopening of schools. The department will be prioritizing aspects of this guidance to ensure we are quickly publishing needed information for the summer and fall.
DPI is developing an emergency rule for PI 17 to expand online summer school options to all grades for all courses provided for an academic purpose (e.g. classes related or similar to instruction that is offered during the regular school year). State Superintendent Stanford Taylor approved a scope statement allowing the department to draft an emergency rule. The department held a preliminary hearing on the scope statement last week and has just received approval to move forward from the Governor’s Office. The department anticipates being able to provide you with a copy of the rule tomorrow, along with an effective date.
Additionally, Madison and Dane County Public Health published Recommendations for Closing and Cleaning Schools for the Summer. These recommendations are in line with current state health orders. The department is providing this information for your reference and encourages you to discuss questions surrounding the closing and cleaning of schools in preparation for the summer with your local county health department if you have further questions.
There will be no delays in state financial reports and year-end audits for school districts due to COVID-19.
The financial reporting cycle for state aids paid in 2020-21 begins with the PI-1547 Pupil Transportation Report, which opens May 11 and is due on July 17. The PI-1505, PI-1505-AC, and PI-1505-SE annual school district reports will open in early July and be due in September as usual. Determination of state aid payments, especially the crucial October 15 certification of general school aids, relies upon accurate data submitted within established deadlines.
Auditors have begun contacting school district clients about scheduling their June pre-audit work and July-August field work. As a reminder, Emergency Order #28 (April 16, 2020) closes schools for instruction and extracurricular activities through the end of June, but it also specifies that essential governmental functions “needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government body” are to continue. Nothing in Emergency Order #28 suspends the need for school districts to conduct their year-end fiscal activities, nor does it prevent auditors and employees from accessing buildings and records for business purposes. PI 14 requires school district audits be conducted on-site, but the DPI understands the current situation calls for being flexible in the interpretation of “on-site.” The DPI recommends districts work with their auditors to identify audit processes that will maximize health and safety while maintaining operations. For example, an auditor could conduct field work remotely with an employee on-site to locate and scan invoices or other needed financial records.
As required under the CARES Act, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a report to Congressrecommending additional waiver authority under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Perkins Act. Secretary DeVos did not recommend any waivers to the core provisions of IDEA. The secretary is requesting Congress consider some flexibilities on administrative requirements and allow local educational agencies to keep funds allotted under Perkins for 2019-2020 if funds were not spent during the COVID-19 emergency.
Separately, Secretary DeVos made waivers available on fiscal flexibility, testing, report cards, and school identifications, which DPI applied for and received. The DPI has published a document describing what these waivers mean for local educational agencies.
April 16, 2020
The Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm extended the current Safer at Home Order under Order #28. This order does not change the provisions you have been operating under. The order goes into effect on April 24 and will remain in effect until 8:00 a.m. on May 26, 2020. Governor Tony Evers’ office also provided a question and answer document accompanying the order.
So while the Safer at Home Order continues to keep buildings closed, it does not close school operations. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) encourages you to continue what you have been doing to provide continuity of learning and school meals. Please see the statement from State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor below.
“The closure of school buildings does not mean the end of services to children. The Department of Public Instruction remains committed to supporting schools and districts as they continue to care for their students, advance continuity of learning, provide meals for students, plan for the remainder of the year, and begin to plan for summer school opportunities and next fall due to COVID-19.”
April 8, 2020
Mental Health and Wellness
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is providing mental health resources for you as you look to serve students, parents, caregivers, and educators during this public health emergency. Taking into consideration the need to be physically distant, while maintaining social and emotional connections, the DPI organized the resources by the four topic areas below:
· General Mental Health and Wellness
· Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellness
· Parent, Caregiver, and Educator Mental Health and Wellness
· Positive Parenting and Safe Home Environments
Please see the communication from the Department of Workforce Development that was sent to Youth Apprenticeship (YA) coordinators. The communication provides notice of revised minimum completion requirements and frequently asked questions guidance for the school year. Similar requirements will apply to the state-certified Skill Standards Cooperative Education programming, including employability skills and youth leadership. Key components of the revised requirements are:
· Students may continue related classroom instruction virtually.
· The school-supervised, work-based learning (WBL) employer training agreement (ETA) is temporarily suspended.
· As of March 18, 2020, a student is considered successful if he or she:
o was registered for the 2019-2020 school year,
o met a minimum of 360 hours for DPI Skill Standards Co-Op, or 68 hours for Employability Skills or Youth Leadership, and
o completed one full semester plus nine weeks of the second semester of required program related instruction.
Students who did not achieve these minimums have the choice to continue to accrue hours over the summer up until September 30, 2020, or be registered as incomplete in the program.
Questions have also been raised specific to the Cooperative Education Skills Standard Certificate and the Assistant Child Care Teacher Program, Infant Toddler Skills Certificate, and related licensure. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org at 608-266-2022 email@example.com at 608-267-9088 regarding those inquiries.
The DPI does not know when school closures will end, but absent a vaccine, the COVID-19 virus will still be present. This poses unique challenges as you plan for summer school and the possibility of an online environment. The DPI wants to ensure you have as much flexibility as possible in your planning and is actively exploring what additional flexibility can be provided around virtual education through administrative rule changes. DPI must follow the state administrative rule processes in this regard, and will get more information to you in the next few weeks.
Education Stabilization Funds
As you are aware, the CARES Act provides funding for a number of programs to be administered by the US Department of Education (USDE), most notably to the Education Stabilization Fund, which distributes funding to states, local educational agencies (LEAs), and institutions of higher education (IHEs). As the DPI noted in an earlier email, this act would provide additional funds to LEAs. DPI’s preliminary, rough estimates show,districts may receive supplemental funds totaling 75 to 80 percent of their 2019-20 Title I allocation.
The timing for receipt of these funds depends on how quickly USDE can set up the necessary structures to deliver funding. The USDE has 30 days (until the end of April) to establish an application for state education agencies (SEAs) to apply for the funds. The DPI does not yet know what will be required on that application, but the department will apply for funds and work to get those out to you as quickly as possible. The DPI’s ability to get funds to you will be dependent on federal timelines and requirements that have not yet been announced.
There are requirements on the Education Stabilization Funds of which you should be aware.
· Title I equitable participation requirements will apply to K-12 funding. Equitable share calculations will be the same as how Title I equitable share is calculated. The DPI is awaiting guidance as to how this will apply to CARES Act funds.
· Recipients of education stabilization dollars shall, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus. The DPI does not have guidance from USDE as to what the greatest extent practicable means as that is not defined in the bill. The department will let you know if any guidance is issued. Absent guidance, it is up to LEAs to determine, based on their own fiscal situation, what it means to pay employees and contractors to the greatest extent practicable.
· The use of the Education Stabilization Funds is not restricted to Title I purposes. Funds can be used to implement activities related to:
o ESEA, IDEA, Carl Perkins, and McKinney-Vento.
o Coordination of preparedness and response efforts with other agencies related to the coronavirus.
o Providing principals with resources to meet the needs of schools.
o Address the unique needs of low-income children or students, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and foster care youth, including how outreach and service delivery will meet the needs of each population.
o Developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve the preparedness and response efforts of local educational agencies.
o Training and professional development for staff of the local educational agency on sanitation and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
o Purchasing supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities of a local educational agency, including buildings operated by such agency.
o Planning for and coordinating during long-term closures, including for how to provide meals to eligible students, how to provide technology for online learning to all students, how to provide guidance for carrying out requirements under IDEA, and how to ensure other educational services can continue to be provided consistent with all federal, state, and local requirements.
o Purchasing educational technology (including hardware, software, and connectivity) for students who are served by the local educational agency that aids in regular and substantive educational interaction between students and their classroom instructors, including low-income students and students with disabilities, which may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment.
o Providing mental health services and supports.
o Planning and implementing activities related to summer learning and supplemental afterschool programs, including providing classroom instruction or online learning during the summer months and addressing the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.
o Other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in the LEA.
Emergency Education Relief Fund
Governors will also receive $3 billion in funding through an emergency education relief fund created under the Act. Wisconsin’s share is estimated to be around $46.7 million. These funds may be used by Governor Evers for the following purposes:
· Provide emergency support through grants to LEAs that the SEA has deemed most significantly impacted to support the ability to continue to provide educational services and support on-going functionality of the LEA.
· Provide emergency support through grants to IHEs.
· Provide support to any other IHE, LEA, or education-related entity within the state that the governor deems essential for carrying out emergency educational services to students for provision of services under ESEA, IDEA, Perkins, McKinney-Vento, Higher Education Act, child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.
Equitable participation requirements will apply to any funds received by an LEA under this provision.
There are a number of flexibility provisions in the law. The CARES Act includes a new U.S. Secretary of Education waiver authority under ESEA (National Emergency Educational Waivers). USDE has already used this authority and DPI applied for and received approval to waive federal assessment, accountability, identification, and report card requirements. A public comment period is still required and is open until April 13.
On Saturday, the USDE released an expedited waiver process for fiscal flexibility as allowed under the CARES Act. The DPI applied for and received approval to begin implementing this waiver. The following are the provisions of the waiver:
· Carryover limitation in section 1127(b) of ESEA for Federal fiscal year (FY) 2019 Title I, Part A funds (i.e., the Title I,Part A funds that will become carryover funds on October 1, 2020) and the requirement that limits an SEA’s ability to grant to its LEAs a waiver of the 15 percent Title I, Part A carryover limitation in section 1127(a) more than once every three years.
· Extending the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for programs in which the SEA participates under its approved consolidated State plan until September 30, 2021. The programs are:
o Title I, Part A of the ESEA, including the portions of the SEA’s Title I, Part A award used to carry out section1003 school improvement, section 1003A direct student services, if applicable, and Title I, Part D, Subpart 2
o Title I, Part B of the ESEA (State Assessment Formula Grants)
o Title I, Part C of the ESEA (Education of Migratory Children)
o Title I, Part D, Subpart 1 of the ESEA (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk)
o Title II, Part A of the ESEA (Supporting Effective Instruction)
o Title III, Part A of the ESEA (English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement)
o Title IV, Part A of the ESEA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants)
o Title IV, Part B of the ESEA (21st Century Community Learning Centers)
o Title V, Part B, Subpart 2 of the ESEA (Rural and Low-Income School Program)
o McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program
· Title IV, Part A requirements in the ESEA for LEAs that received $30,000 or more in Title IV, Part A funds:
o Needs assessment requirements in section 4106(d) for the 2019-2020 school year.
o Content area spending requirements in section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E): the requirements to use a minimum percentage of Title IV, Part A funds for activities under sections 4107, 4108 and 4109 for FY 2019 funds and any available FY 2018carryover funds.
o Spending limitation in section 4109(b): the 15 percent limit on the use of funds undersection 4109 to purchase technology infrastructure for FY 2019 funds and any available FY 2018 carryover funds.
· The definition of professional development in section 8101(42) of the ESEA for the2019-2020 school year.
The DPI will be developing information on what these waivers mean for you and how to access the additional flexibility provided. A comment period, as required under the waiver, will also be available within the next few days at www.dpi.wi.gov/esea.
The DPI will continue to aggressively pursue waivers under this law to ensure you have the flexibility you need as you work through this public health emergency.
March 31, 2020
Excerpt from letter to superintendents from State Superintendent Carolyn Stafford-Taylor :
I wish I could assure you of a certain date schools will reopen, but the situation continues to evolve. In the absence of certainty around school reopening, I encourage you to do long-range planning as if students will not be back in school for the rest of this school year. As you move ahead over the next several weeks, I encourage you to consider the following:
Graduation policies Engage with other districts and share strategies on how to ensure students who were on track for graduation prior to school closure can graduate. Information on state high school graduation requirements and school board authority
Continuity of learning Consider how you continue to provide learning opportunities during the duration of the closure. Linked to this letter is a resource titled Considerations for Teaching and Learning during COVID-19.
Social and emotional well-being Continuity of learning should also include paying attention to the social and emotional needs of students during these difficult times. We are currently working on resources for parents and school staff to address these issues and hope to have those to you by next week.
Communication with students Some of the most important work you will do over the next few weeks will involve connecting with your students. Make sure you know how they are doing. Students hear the news and see the changes in their lives, and your contact will make a difference.
March 26, 2020
New guidance on graduation and English learners, connectivity at home, and information on the COVID-19 stimulus bill that unanimously passed the U.S. Senate.
Connectivity at Home
Keeping students and communities connected online is important during this time. The DPI, in partnership with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, has dedicated this website to inform Wisconsin on current connectivity offers, programs and resources to expand the ability to connect. The department knows connecting online is not possible for everyone, but to the extent it is, families and schools can utilize this site to stay informed on the most current offers and discounts. Additionally, the department has posted information around innovative ways to address the digital divide during an extended school closure as a reference.
COVID-19 Federal Stimulus Package
The stimulus package passed the Senate unanimously last night and now moves to the House, which is expected to act quickly.
The bill would provide $30.75 billion in an Education Stabilization Fund, to be divided among governors ($3 billion), higher education ($14.25 billion), and state education agencies (SEAs) for elementary and secondary education (nearly $13.5 billion). Of the $13.5 billion, $11.9 billion would be distributed to local educational agencies (LEAs) using the Title I formula as the distribution mechanism. DPI’s very preliminary, rough estimates, show that districts may receive 75 to 80 percent of their 2019-20 Title I allocation. DPI does not yet have any information about when these funds will be distributed, what the timeframe for expending funds will be, or the parameters for spending these funds. The department will be following this closely and will provide more updates as information becomes available.
Additionally, governors would receive approximately $3 billion to be used for higher education or K-12 supports to LEAs that the SEA has deemed most significantly impacted by COVID-19. The bill also provides Head Start with $750 million.
Regarding waivers, this bill includes a new US Department of Education Secretarial waiver authority for ESEA, under which waivers must be approved or disapproved within 30 days. Provisions, which may be waived under this process, include:
- The poverty threshold necessary to do a schoolwide program;
- Maintenance of effort;
- Restrictions on carry over limitations (unused funds from one year to the next);
- Certain requirements under the Student Supports and Academic Enrichment Grants program, including the needs assessment, spending certain percentages among the three programmatic focuses, and the limitation on technology spending ; and
- Requirements related to the definition of professional development.
The DPI will pursue waivers from the federal government necessary to ensure the department and LEAs can have the flexibility to manage the learning they are able to provide in this unprecedented health emergency. As a reminder, we have already received approval to implement the waiver from federal testing, accountability, school identification, and report card requirements. DPI also applied for Ed Flex authority, which, if approved by USDE, would give DPI additional authority to waive some requirements, if necessary, for school districts.
The DPI has developed an FAQ for school districts around the provision of services to English learners.
In response to questions surrounding graduation, DPI has developed a resource for school districts. The document covers graduation requirements, local authority, grading and class promotion, current school closure, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act considerations.
March 23, 2020
Updates on a waiver for hours of instruction and the DPI’s federal waiver.
DPI Issued Waivers
Hours of Instruction
Governor Tony Evers signed Emergency Order #10, which suspends requirements in administrative rule related to the waiving of the hours of instruction, on March 21. The DPI is now able to provide an expedited waiver process for the instructional hours requirement via a simple form. DPI will approve all such requests.
Per state law, school boards will still need to hold a public hearing [s.118.38 (1) (b)] and document the date of the public hearing to receive a waiver. The public hearing can be virtual or by teleconference. Please see Wisconsin Department of Justice guidance on public meetings for information on holding public meetings during this public health emergency.
Contact Tamara Mouw, Director of Teaching and Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Federal Waiver Update
Today, the DPI received approval to implement waivers for requirements in section 1111 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, related to assessment and accountability requirements. The DPI waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education is attached for your reference.
March 16, 2020
Updates on serving special education students, school meals, board meetings, and waiver requests.
The DPI published new guidance Extended School Closure for Students with IEPs due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 18. This is a short (3 page) document. The department will add to this resource as additional questions arise. As noted in the guidance,
We would also like to encourage districts to provide learning opportunities to students if possible so students can make educational progress despite the significant disruption of school closures. This includes providing students with disabilities access to these opportunities to the greatest extent possible during this public health emergency. If some services cannot be provided or minutes are reduced, the LEA must consider, whether and to what extent, compensatory services are required once the school reopens. These determinations must be made on an individual student basis.
The department updated its Q&A on school meals on Wednesday, March 18. Important updates are provided in this Q&A related to:
- Approval to continue to provide and claim meals for students (Question #2).
- School food service program (SFSP) and seamless summer option (SSO) regulations and student eligibility (Question #3).
DPI has received approval from USDA to allow the program to be offered to all students and therefore meals may be provided in the manner most appropriate, regardless of eligibility.
- Meal pattern flexibilities (Question #5).
The DPI is currently in the process of requesting a milk waiver. There is also federal legislation proposed that may offer some flexibility, once passed.
- How to claim meals (Question #8).
- Multiple days worth of meals (Question #14).
You may provide meals for up to one week for households at one time.
- Spring break meals (Question #15).
Meals provided during spring breaks are allowable and may be claimed for reimbursement.
- Parent/adult pickup of meals for children (Question #17).
- Reimbursement for mileage and delivery costs (Question #20)
You can receive reimbursement as long as the delivery costs are for food service purposes and meets record keeping requirements.
Governor Tony Evers’ order prohibiting gatherings of more than 9 people exempts local government facilities. The governor’s office has clarified to the department this order does not restrict school boards from meeting in person. This undoubtedly raises questions about how to hold public meetings in the midst of a public health emergency. The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new guidance on this topic on March 16, and it is provided as a reference (also attached).
Hours of InstructionThe department will grant waivers to any district who is requesting one for the hours of instruction requirement. You will be able to request a waiver at any time before the end of the school year. The department requested the governor approve our request to suspend portions of the administrative code (PI 8), so we may provide a simple process to apply for a waiver from the hours of instruction. Once that approval is granted, we will notify districts of this simplified and expedited process. If you plan on submitting a waiver request prior to us providing you with this simplified process, you will need to meet all requirements as outlined in rule and statute. Regardless of which option you choose, you are required under state statute to hold a public hearing prior to submitting a request. This provision can be accomplished by phone or other virtual setting. See DOJ guidance.
The department has received numerous questions surrounding the civics exam requirement for high school graduation. DPI has developed resources to assist you in meeting that requirement during this closure. As a reminder, this is not a state exam, but rather a locally administered set of questions. We know districts vary in their ability to meet this requirement and have provided a form for you to request a wavier if it becomes necessary. The department does not anticipate waiving state graduation requirements of 15 credits. School boards determine what constitutes a credit and the department encourages you to be flexible and consider how students may meet graduation requirements during this health emergency.
All Other Waivers
The DPI has authority to grant waivers to school districts from requirements in state statute from Chapters 115 to 121. The department will consider all waiver requests and will provide a simplified Google form to submit requests, so districts can receive a response as quickly as possible.