School Reopening Frequently Asked Questions – Updated July 29, 2020 (Virginia Department of Education, VDOE)

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School Reopening Frequently Asked Questions – Updated July 29, 2020

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is committed to providing school divisions with additional updates as they become available. This afternoon, the School Reopening Frequently Asked Questions page was updated with the following information:

SCHOOL BUDGET AND FINANCE

Are construction and renovation costs an allowable use of the ESSER LEA formula funds?

Yes.  Because ESSER funds may be used for “any activity authorized by the ESEA,” and construction is an allowable activity under the ESEA’s Impact Aid program, an LEA may use ESSER funds for construction or renovation, subject to prior written approval by the VDOE as SEA.  As is the case with all activities charged to the ESSER Fund, construction or renovations costs must be reasonable and necessary to meet the overall purpose of the program, which is “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to” the COVID-19 pandemic.  Therefore, any construction activities, including renovations or remodeling, that would be necessary for an LEA to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 would be permissible. This might include renovations that would permit an LEA to clean effectively (e.g., replacing old carpet with tile that could be cleaned more easily) or create a learning environment that could better sustain social distancing (e.g., bringing an unused wing of a school into compliance with fire and safety codes in order to reopen it to create more space for students to maintain social distancing).

Approved construction or renovation projects must comply with applicable Uniform Guidance requirements, as well as the USED regulations regarding construction at 34 CFR § 76.600. As is the case with all construction contracts financed by federal education funds, an LEA that uses ESSER funds for construction or renovation contracts over $2,000 must meet all Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage requirements and include language in the construction contracts that all contractors or subcontractors must pay wages that are not less than those established for the locality of the project (prevailing wage rates).

SCHOOL NUTRITION

What flexibility is there with data collected associated with Breakfast After the Bell?

The state has issued an extension of an existing flexibility that any local school division participating in an After-the-Bell breakfast program shall be relieved of the requirement to include tardy arrivals, office discipline referrals, student achievement measures, teachers' and administrators' responses to the impact of the program on student hunger, student attentiveness, and overall classroom learning environment before and after implementation, and the financial impact on the division's school food program in its annual program report, due on August 31, 2021 to the Department of Education. No funded school division shall be excluded from funding eligibility in the 2021- 2022 school year based on unavailability of data from the 2020-2021 school year. (Item 145.C.30.c.3)

INSTRUCTION

Is there relief from the CTE credential requirement for students graduating in 2020-2021? 

Yes, the state has waived the career and technical education credential requirement for any student who is graduating in 2020-2021 and seeking a Standard Diploma under the graduation requirements in 8VAC20-131-50.

Is there relief from the student selected test requirement for students graduating in 2020-2021? 

Yes, the state has waived the student selected test for any student who:

  • Is graduating in 2020-2021 and seeking either a Standard or Advanced Diploma under thegraduation requirements in 8VAC20-131-50;
  • Is a career and technical education program completer as of the summer 2020 term; and
  • Intended to use a career and technical education credentialing test to meet their student selected test requirement.

In order to be eligible for such waiver, an administrator or school counselor must verify that the student is a program completer and had intended to use a career and technical education credentialing test to meet their student selected test requirement. (8VAC20-131-50)

 

Will students graduating in 2020-2021 be required to meet the CPR graduation requirements?

No, students graduating in 2020-2021 are relieved of the requirement to complete training in emergency first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and the use of automated external defibrillator, including hands-on practice of the skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. (§ 22.1-253.13:4.D.7) 

What if a student who is graduating in 2020-2021 under the new graduation requirements and previously completed their Career and Technical Education coursework is unable to accommodate a CTE credentialing test in their schedule prior to graduation? 

A waiver of the first additional requirement for graduation (Advanced Placement, Honors, or International Baccalaureate Course or Career and Technical Education Credential) for any student who:

  • Is graduating in 2020-2021 but under the graduation requirements in 8VAC20-131-51;
  • Is a career and technical education program completer as of summer 2020 term; and
  • Intended to use a career and technical education credentialing test to meet the additional requirement for graduation

In order to be eligible for such waiver, an administrator or school counselor must verify that the student is a program completer and had intended to use a career and technical education credentialing test to meet the additional requirement for graduation. (§ 22.1-253.13:4.D.6 and 8VAC20-131-51)

What relief is there with regard to the K-3 Class Size Reduction Program?

A waiver has been issued such that schools that are eligible to participate in the K-3 Primary Class Size Reduction program may be allowed to exceed either the school ratio OR maximum class size, as currently set out in Item 145.C.10.d, if the reason for needing flexibility is the direct result of reorganizing classrooms to accommodate some virtual instruction for a limited number of students. 

As an example, a school with 75% or more of students approved eligible for free lunch (based on a three-year average), may have K-3 classes larger than 19 students to accommodate some students in a virtual classroom as long as the school ratio remains 14 to 1. In-person instruction should remain the primary instructional delivery model for K-3 grades in order to be eligible for this flexibility. Schools that are able to maintain either the school ratio OR maximum class size and meet the above conditions will not be subject to a reduction to incentive funding. 

Schools that are entirely virtual are still eligible for funding through the K-3 Primary Class Size Reduction program, but the above flexibility would not apply. These schools must maintain the maximum class size AND school ratio in order to receive incentive funding. (Item 145.C.10 of Chapter 1289)

SCHOOL REOPENING

Do the DOLI emergency standards impact schools?

On July 27, 2020, the Emergency Temporary Standard on Infectious Disease Prevention, issued by the Department of Labor went into effect. The standards are designed to “establish requirements for employers to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to and among employees and employers.” Schools in Virginia are impacted by the regulations, and should implement them in consultation with legal counsel, insurers, and internal teams.  

When should notifications (letters) be sent to the entire school community? Specifically:

TEACHER EDUCATION & LICENSURE

What if individuals cannot complete the hands-on cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR training required for an initial teaching license or license renewal pursuant to § 22.1-298.1.D in the Code of Virginia

The Superintendent of Public Instruction is granting an extension to the existing waiver that any individual seeking an initial license or renewal of licensure and who has completed all other components of training in emergency first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and the use of automated external defibrillator shall be relieved of the requirement to have hands-on practice of the skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation for the purpose of their licensure application until June 30, 2021.

DATA AND TECHNOLOGY

Will the state waive the 15-day drop period for students?

The VDH recommends that students that are absent due to COVID-19 illness, related quarantine or social distancing not be dropped from school enrollment in order to allow for continuity in education. Therefore, the state has waived the requirement that a pupil be withdrawn from the roll after 15 consecutive absences, as found at 8VAC20-110-130, if such student is known to be absent due to illness or quarantine due to COVID-19.

How should attendance be tracked? 

Attendance policy is a local matter. A Superintendent’s memo was issued on July 24, 2020 with guidance for divisions on how to develop attendance policies that reflect the unique instructional models based on their individual needs and capacities. This guidance recommends daily attendance checks through either time or task/product based measures. 

Additionally, the state has issued a  waiver of 8VAC20-110-40 which requires that a pupil shall be counted present only when he is present for roll calls or is in attendance for approved participation at approved school sponsored field trips or other approved activities or events. A pupil reporting after roll call will be recorded present and tardy.

CDC AND VDH GUIDANCE

What symptoms or considerations do parents need to address as part of the home screening process

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has created a checklist as a helpful tool for parents to use to evaluate their child’s health and ability to attend school.  The checklist includes a symptom checker and addresses potential contact or exposure to those with COVID. If your child is unwell, please contact your healthcare provider. 

What things should parents consider before making a decision to attend school virtually or in-person?

Many parents, caregivers, and guardians face new and difficult choices about how their child will return to school in the fall, such as deciding between in-person and virtual learning. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has designed a tool to help parents, caregivers, and guardians weigh the risks and benefits for consideration in order to make this decision making process easier. It is organized to provide parents and caregivers with general information on COVID-19, and options to consider for virtual, in person and hybrid options, if offered. For many families, back to school planning will look different this year than it has in previous years. Your school will have new policies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You may also be starting the school year with virtual learning components. The CDC has developed checklists that are intended to help parents, guardians, and caregivers, plan and prepare for the upcoming school year.

Should schools test or screen students or staff for COVID-19 symptoms? 

The CDC revised its guidance for K-12 schools regarding the symptom screening of students. The CDC does not currently recommend universal symptom screening for K-12 schools. Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day and keep them home when they are sick. The CDC has created a helpful checklist for parents to use at home. 

Screening procedures are available for students and staff who arrive with or develop symptoms during the course of the day. The Operations Section of the Recover, Redesign, Restart guide provides detailed considerations (PDF) for schools in developing such policies. Sample health screenings and sample health entrance questionnaires are available from VDOE in English (Word) and Spanish (Word).

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