School Closure Information for Building Administrators (FAQs)

By Brian Schwartz posted 14 days ago

  
Updated March 29, 2020 at 1:28 pm

On Friday, March 20, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that all Illinois schools will now be closed through Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Chicago Public Schools are shuddered through Monday, April 20, 2020.)

From Tuesday, March 17 through Monday, March 30, 2020, ISBE has mandated that all days otherwise designated for school will be “Act of God” days. These are non-instructional and non-attendance days.  ISBE is encouraging all school districts to provide learning opportunities to all students, through whatever means possible.  Student work during this time should not negatively impact student grades, as these days are not instructional days.

Beginning Tuesday, March 31, 2020, schools will begin Remote Learning Days and may implement either an E-Learning Plan or a Remote Learning Day Plan that provides students with instruction and access to educators through whatever means possible. Schools may use up to five Remote Learning Planning Days at any time after March 30 to work on Remote Learning Day Plans in partnership with their collective bargaining units.


For more information, see the IPA Remote and E-Learning Resources Page, IPA Coronavirus Page or ISBE Coronavirus Page. For IPA specific updates and how best to contact IPA staff, visit here. Specific school closure information for building administrators follows.

Governor's "Stay at Home" Executive Order
(For additional information, click HERE.)

How long does the Governor's "Stay at Home" order last?
The Governor's "Stay at Home" order is currently in effect from 5:00pm on Saturday, March 21st through Tuesday, April 7th.  Except for essential state services, all businesses must close and individuals must remain at home or their place of residence.

Can school staff travel to and from school or other designated location to assist with distance learning opportunities and student meal service?
Yes. Personnel who are preparing and distributing meals to students and insuring that students have access to remote learning instruction are performing essential functions that are exempt from the "Stay at Home" mandate.

What essential state services will continue during the "Stay at Home" order?
Essential services include, but are not limited to: grocery stores; gas stations; pharmacies; police stations; fire stations; hospitals, clinics and healthcare operations; garbage/sanitation; public transportation; public benefits (i.e. SNAP, Medicaid) hotlines.  A full list of essential services can be found in the executive order at coronavirus.illinois.gov.

Can schools provide child care for essential workers?
Schools can volunteer to provide child care for low-income essential workers without obtaining an emergency license. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor last Friday closed child care centers statewide. But because many essential workers need child care, the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) is allowing schools to re-open as emergency child care centers without a visit from DCFS and without needing to obtain a license. For more information, chick HERE.

Act of God Days and Remote Learning Days


When do Act of God Days cease and Remote Learning Days begin?
Act of God Days end on March 30, 2020. Beginning on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, schools will begin Remote Learning Days and may implement either an E-Learning Plan or a Remote Learning Day Plan that provides students with instruction and access to educators through whatever means possible. Schools may use up to five Remote Learning Planning Days at any time after March 30 to work on Remote Learning Day Plans in partnership with their collective bargaining units.

Do Act of God Days and Remote Learning Days count as actual student attendance days?
Remote Learning Days, Remote Learning Planning Days, and Act of God Days count as actual student attendance days. All of these days count toward the minimum length of the school year and absolutely do not need to be made up.

How should schools keep track of student attendance during Remote Learning Days?
ISBE will provide additional guidance in this in the near future.

Are we required to submit to ISBE changes to our school calendar with respect to Remote Learning Days?
No.  At present schools and districts should keep track of how days are being used (learning days or planning days) and each district's ROE will be in contact with districts on how to report this information.

Can work completed during "Act of God" days be used to increase a student's academic standing?

Per clarification issued by ISBE on March 17, 2020, schools may allow student work to count during the closure to increase a student’s academic standing.

What are best grading practices during Remote Learning Days?
The Remote Learning Recommendations strongly encourage that school districts' local grading policies during Remote Learning Days embrace the principle of “no educational harm to any child" and that school districts adopt grading models of pass or incomplete.  The Recommendations state that “Grading should focus on the continuation of learning and prioritize the connectedness and care for students and staff. All students should have the opportunity to redo, make up, or try again to complete, show progress, or attempt to complete work assigned prior to the remote learning period in that time frame. A focus on keeping children emotionally and physically safe, fed, and engaged in learning should be our first priority during this unprecedented time."

Who approves the school or district's Remote Learning Plan?
The district superintendent is required to approve the Remote Learning Plan and  the plan must be posted on the district's website.

Testing Protocols (SAT, AP, IAR, and Constitution Exam)


How will this closure impact administration of Spring 2020 State-mandated assessments and accountability?
ISBE has submitted a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education to: (1) waive all federally required assessments in the 2019-20 school year; (2) waive the requirement to provide summative designations and identify schools for targeted and comprehensive support in the 2019-20 school year; and (3) waive the requirement to report on accountability indicators on the 2019-20 school year Report Card. As of March 24th, the waiver has been tentatively approved. The U.S. Department of Education has directed Illinois to begin implementing the waivers while it processes the formal approval. You can view Illinois’ waiver application HERE.  

Additionally, Governor JB Pritzker issued an Executive Order that suspends state assessments for spring 2020, including the Constitution exam. This action officially ends assessment activity statewide for the Illinois Assessment of Readiness, Illinois Science Assessment, SAT, and Dynamic Learning Maps-Alternate Assessment for the 2019-20 school year.
ISBE recognizes that the free SAT provided by the state is the only opportunity many students get to take a college entrance exam and is working with the College Board on developing options to allow current 11th grade students to take the SAT in the fall.

Will the College Board still administer Advanced Placement (AP) Exams?
The College Board’s AP program is finalizing streamlined AP Exam options that would allow students to test at home, depending on the situation in May. College Board is working
to give every AP student the opportunity to claim the credit they’ve earned. The AP Program will communicate the details of these additional solutions to educators and students by March 20. Currently, the AP Exam administration remains as scheduled for schools that will be open on May 4–8 and 11–15, with late testing scheduled for May 20–22.  For additional information, click HERE.

Special Education

(Additional federal guidance HERE.)

Is there any federal flexibility regarding IEP timelines?
Presently there is no flexibility regarding federal timelines.  However, it is important to consider the difference between school days and calendar days.  Act of God days are not considered to be school days and do not count when IEP deadlines are calculated based on a certain number of school days.

Should schools continue to hold IEP meetings?

Presently there is no waiver from IDEA provisions. ISBE recommends holding IEP meetings virtually if possible.

Should IEP services be provided during "Act of God” days?
Since “Act of God” days are not school days, schools are not required to deliver IEP services during this time period.

What are a school districts obligations regarding continuity of services for IEP students?
A school district may not discriminate against students with disabilities by failing to provide continuity of education options that are accessible to them. School district's providing continuity of education must do so equitably, through whatever means possible. Special education personnel are encouraged to provide opportunities for students, including any necessary accommodations, whenever possible. Educators should keep detailed documentation of all educational opportunities provided to students during the statewide school closure.

What must school districts do for students who have home or hospital placement as their IEP placement?
If a school district is not providing any educational opportunities to its general education students, then it would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time. ISBE continues to recommend that all students be afforded continuity of education opportunities, including for students who have home or hospital placements.

Driver's Education


What are the expectations for mandated driver’s education and behind the wheel hours?

The classroom portion of a driver education program may be completed through remote/distance learning, but the 6-hour behind the wheel portion of driver education programs must be suspended for the duration of the mandatory suspension of in-person instruction.

Meal Service and Transportation


Will schools be reimbursed for meals served?
For schools that participate in the school nutrition programs, meals will be reimbursed. In order to receive reimbursement, the standard student meal nutrition guidelines apply.

Will schools receive transportation reimbursement if schools deliver meals?
Yes, but the rate of reimbursement rates may differ.

Are districts required to complete a form to provide non-congregate feeding for students?
Districts will need to complete a one-page waiver that takes less than 10 minutes: https://www.isbe.net/Documents/ISBE-66-98.pdf. Please send to ISBE at CNP@isbe.net as soon as possible.

If districts use buses to deliver meals, is that mileage reimbursable? What is a reimbursable transportation expenditure?
The per-meal federal reimbursement rate for schools participating in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Programs includes transportation as an allowable expenditure. ISBE is also seeking flexibility to allow for transportation costs related to food delivery (or other services and materials for students’ health and wellbeing) during the mandated statewide school closure to be claimable for reimbursement from the State through ISBE’s regular Transportation Reimbursement.

Is ISBE reimbursing expenditures for school bus transportation during the closure if school buses are not running regular routes?
ISBE will base Transportation Reimbursement on expenditures. All allowable transportation expenditures incurred during the closure will be claimable for Transportation
Reimbursement. School districts should work with their bus contractors to make payments to ensure that all personnel, including bus monitors and bus drivers, can continue to be paid during the closure. If school districts choose to negotiate and execute a contract amendment with their bus contractors to make payments during the closure to ensure transportation personnel will be paid in full, those expenditures will be reimbursed for state Transportation Reimbursement. Consultation with the district’s legal representation is advised.

Employment and Staffing Considerations

(Additional information HERE.)

Will employees continued to be paid during "Act of God" days?
From March 17 through March 30, all school district employees on the district’s payroll will get paid as if the schools were functioning normally, regardless of the district plans developed during this time. These school days will not be made up. All employees will get paid as if they did all the normal work they would have done if schools were functioning normally. Normal pay includes salary, hourly and stipend pay, benefits, and employees will receive full and normal service credit in their pension systems.  For more information, click HERE.

Can teachers and staff be required to perform work duties during "Act of God" days?
From March 17 through March 30, the employer can expect school district employees to participate in work activities in some form. The concrete details of the work, including stipend work, that will occur during this timeframe must be worked out through mutual agreement, but negotiations should focus on ensuring (1) continuity of education, (2) provision of meals, and (3) other student support measures as appropriate for each district.  For more information, click HERE.

Are teacher evaluation, RIF and non-renewal deadlines still in effect?
Current law on teacher evaluation and Reduction in Force (honorable dismissal and layoff) remains in full force including all timelines and existing statutory language. If necessary, meetings and evaluation conferences associated with these statutes will occur remotely.

What is being done for educator licensure candidates who might not be able to complete required program components (e.g., student teaching, internship hours, the EdTPA, content tests) due to school and test center closures?
Due to recent school and test center closures that limit or prohibit candidates from completing their preparation program requirements, ISBE is pursuing emergency action that will enable candidates to still receive licensure this spring and summer and gain employment this fall. ISBE will provide official guidance regarding the edTPA, student teaching/internships, clinical hours required for endorsements, and testing timelines as soon as we have secured this emergency action.

Will ISBE amend renewal dates for educator licensure?
ISBE is investigating opportunities to provide temporary extensions of renewal dates of licenses and will provide more information about this issue as it becomes available.

Are unions required to be consulted with respect to work plans?
Yes, work plans are terms and conditions of employment and must be negotiated with your unions.

General Operations


Does an administrator need to remain in each school building?
ISBE recommends that an administrator remain in each school building during school days and hours in order to assist homeless and other at-risk students. This is recommended guidance, and social distancing protocols should be used. Further, nothing should be done that puts the health of school personnel at risk.

Are schools required to comply with FOIA requests during "Act of God" days?
FOIA provides that "each public body shall...comply with or deny a request for public records within 5 business days after its receipt of the request." "Act of God" days are not business days and do not count toward the compliance timeline.

Are schools and districts still required to submit required reports through IWAS?
IWAS weekly notifications have been suspended.  ISBE is currently working to determine which reports will still need to be submitted along with a reporting timeline.

Are schools required to enroll new students during Remote Learning Days?
Yes.

#covid19
6 comments
1474 views

Permalink

Comments

9 days ago

Hi, Mary Ann, ISBE will provide further guidance regarding the stay at home order next week.

9 days ago

The Governor didn’t say if these extended days are Act of God days or e-learning days. Anywhere we can look to find out the expectations?

9 days ago

Hi, Michael... stay tuned on this.  It appears the U.S. Department of Education has finally come around to waive standardized testing this year.  We will update the blog as details emerge.

10 days ago

Thank you for sharing this information. Is there guidance from ISBE regarding the IAR testing that began the week before the closure?

14 days ago

Thank you, Lea Anne.  This document provides good additional advice.  The link is below.  Brian

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/qa-covid-19-03-12-2020.pdf

14 days ago

I would ask that you review this Q and A
Should IEP services be provided during "Act of God” days?
Since “Act of God” days are not school days, schools are not required to deliver IEP services during this time period. More information will follow on other IDEA requirements.

Please see the guidance document from March 2020 from the DOE titled "Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak"
Thank you!