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School Closure Information for Building Administrators (FAQs)

By Brian Schwartz posted 03-15-2020 17:13

  
**Updated May 7, 2020 at 8:26 am** (New and updated information is marked with a red "NEW" or "UPDATED" designation.)

Effective April 24, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed Executive Order 2020-31, which temporarily suspends regulatory provision related to: (1) student graduation requirements; and (2) student teaching, supervised field experience, or internship requirements for professional educator licenses or endorsements.

For a copy of the Governor's Order, click HERE.

For ISBE guidance on student graduation, click HERENEW 5/4/20
For ISBE guidance on licensure, click HERE.

Note: For individuals who have a PEL (professional educator license) that is up for renewal in 2020, all professional development requirements must still be completed by June 30, 2020.  ISBE allows for a two month grace period in certain circumstances.  For more information, contact IPA.


On Friday, April 17, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that in-person learning in schools will not resume during the 2019-2020 school year, with remote learning days to continue for all pre-k through 12th grade students.

Illinois will receive approximately $569 million in federal funding for prek-12 schools, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funding can help equip students with technology and internet access to enhance remote learning, support teachers in developing their remote instruction skills, and assist schools in continuing to provide meals to children and communities.  Each public school district will receive CARES Act funding proportional to the number of low-income students they serve. (Visit here for a preliminary distribution breakdown.)  ISBE also will receive CARES Act dollars as the state education agency. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen  Ayala has committed to directing CARES Act resources toward tackling the digital divide in Illinois' least-resourced districts, as part of a strategic effort that will continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.  Learn more.

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

How long does the Governor's "Stay at Home" order last?
The Governor's "Stay at Home" order is currently in effect through Sunday, May 31st.  Except for essential state services, all businesses must close and individuals must remain at home or their place of residence.

What are the timelines for return to school? UPDATED 4/27/20
On April 17, 2020, the Governor announced the statewide mandatory suspension of in-person instruction has been extended through the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Future decisions regarding statewide suspension of in-person instruction will be made by the Governor in consultation with public health officials and in compliance with any Executive Orders from the Governor’s office

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.

Can districts hold in-person graduation ceremonies? NEW 5/4/20 
School districts can hold modified ceremonies in accordance with guidelines established by ISBE and IDPH.  For more information, click HERE.

Can students enter the building to gather personal belongings? NEW 4/27/20 
Yes. Schools should consult with their attorneys, the county health department and Illinois Department of Public Health in ensuring that individuals safely enter the building to gather personal belongings. Parents, guardians, and/or students may be permitted to enter buildings to clean out lockers or desks and to gather personal belongings. Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control social distancing guidelines must be practiced. Schools and districts should initially communicate with families to determine the need to collect any personal belongings. As much as possible, schools should find ways to minimize entry to buildings.
The recommended guidelines below should be employed if it is necessary for students to enter the building to retrieve personal belongings.
A. Schools and districts should consider creating schedules for students to enter buildings for the gathering of their personal belongings and the cleaning out lockers and/or desks. A limited number of individuals should be allowed in the building at one time. Schools and districts should consider creating timeslots per hour per building based on multiple criteria i.e., number of students, building layout, and internal resources available to oversee the process, etc.
B. Students and staff should wear face coverings while in the building.
C. Unless a student requires one-on-one assistance, guests who arrive to assist students should be required to remain in their vehicle until the student brings their items outside to be loaded into their vehicle. If one-on-one assistance is necessary, only one guest may accompany students into the building. Parents or guardians may also gather personal belongings on behalf of students.
D. After the “pick-up” day, keys or district-owned padlocks should remain on lockers and not be handled for at least four days.
E. Wipes and sanitizer should be made available in school buildings for staff and students.
F. If carts are provided by the school, staff should sanitize the carts between uses.
G. Schools should consider custodial support that may be needed to address litter produced during this process and to sanitize the school following access by parents, guardians and students.

Can educators enter the building to gather personal belongings and pack up classrooms? NEW 4/27/20
Yes. Schools should consult with their attorneys, the county health department and Illinois Department of Public Health in ensuring that individuals safely enter the building to gather personal belongings. Educators can enter buildings to clean out lockers or desks and gather personal belongings. Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control social distancing guidelines must be practiced. Schools and districts should initially communicate with staff to determine the need to collect any personal belongings and pack up classrooms. As much as possible, schools should find ways to minimize entry to buildings. The recommended guidelines below should be employed if it is necessary for staff to enter the building to retrieve personal belongings and pack up classrooms.
A. Schools and districts should consider creating schedules for educators to enter buildings for the gathering of their personal belongings and cleaning out classrooms. A limited number of staff should be allowed in the building at one time. Schools and districts should consider creating timeslots per hour per building based on multiple criteria i.e., number of staff, building layout, and internal resources available to oversee the process, etc.
B. Staff should wear face coverings while in the building. Face coverings may include masks, bandanas, or any other object that covers the nose and mouth.
C. Guests who arrive to assist educators should be required to remain in their vehicle until the educator brings their items outside to be loaded in their vehicle.
D. After “pick-up” days, keys must be placed in an envelope by the educator and should not be handled for at least four days.
E. Wipes and sanitizer should be made available in school buildings for staff.
F. If carts are provided by the school, staff should sanitize the carts between uses.
G. Schools should consider custodial support that may be needed to address litter produced during this process and to sanitize the school following access by staff.

During remote leaning, are school staff still required to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect? NEW 5/7/20
Yes.  The provisions of the mandated reporter law remains in effect during remote learning.  For more information, click 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 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?  Updated 5/5/20
Districts have maximum flexibility to determine how attendance is taken.  ISBE has opined that schools should use attendance for the primary purposes of assuring student well-being and engagement. During the duration of Remote Learning Days the provisions of the School Code for the calculation of daily pupil attendance are suspended.  For ISBE's detailed guidance, click HERE.

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.

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."

How should student work be graded during Remote Learning Days?
Student work completed during the suspension of in-person instruction must not negatively impact a student’s grades or otherwise impact a student’s academic standing. As we do not yet know the full extent of the closure and want to minimize any negative effects on students, schools may allow student work to count during the closure only to increase a student’s academic standing.

How do schools handle students who were failing before Remote Learning Days and do not complete additional work? Should they be held back or prevented from graduating until they make sufficient progress?
When possible, allow students who were failing the opportunity to make up content (e.g., when on-site learning resumes, during summer, or the start of the 2020-21 school year).

May students’ dual credit programs continue during Remote Learning Days?
Please reference the joint guidance on dual credit released on March 27 by ISBE, the Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

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.

Can Remote Learning Plans be revised periodically to align with changing circumstances?
Yes. Plans should be updated to ensure the needs of all students continue to be met throughout the suspension of in-person learning. If a plan is revised, post the revised plan to the district website.

How should districts provide continuous learning opportunities during Remote Learning Days?
School districts have full autonomy to provide continuous learning opportunities during the Remote Learning Days through whatever means possible, including through technology and free online resources. We encourage every school and district to explore and implement what works best for the school community.  

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.

Should attendance have been taken during Act of God days?
As Act of God days were not instructional days attendance does not need to be taken.

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

Has Illinois adjusted high school graduation requirements?
The governor and ISBE have amended graduation requirements for high school seniors, in recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their final semester. For example, current high school seniors may graduate without the normally required participation in consumer education and physical fitness assessment. More information to follow.

What should be done with Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) materials?
All secure test materials will need to be returned to Pearson. For more information, chick HERE.

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? 
As schools and communities navigate the challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the College Board will support AP students with free, optional virtual learning and at-home AP testing.  These resources will give students the opportunity to earn the college credit and placement they’ve been working toward all year.   

What Should AP Students Know and Do?

Taking AP Exams

  • AP Exams have been revised to about 45 minutes each and will be taken online, at home.
  • AP Exams are scheduled for May 11-22, with make-up testing on June 1-5.

 Preparing for AP Exams

  • On AP Central, students can see course-specific exam information, including exam dates and times, descriptions of what they’ll be asked to do on their exam, tips for open book/open note test taking and more; exam features; exam scoring; and exam security.
  • On YouTube, students can access daily, online AP classes and review at https://youtube.com/advancedplacement

What Should Administrators and AP Coordinators Know and Do?

Share information with AP students

  • Administrators and AP coordinators can help by letting students know that they’ll be able to take AP Exams this year, even if they’re at home.

Indicate fee reduction eligibility

  • Coordinators need to indicate a student’s fee reduction eligibility in AP Registration and Ordering.
  • To provide AP coordinators with additional flexibility, College Board has extended the deadline to May 26, 11:59 p.m. ET.

Encourage the use of AP Classroom

  • Teachers can use the free resources at AP Classroom to check students’ understanding of key content and skills.
  • See the one-page guide at for more information about how AP Classroom can help support student learning during school closure.

Share Course-Specific Exam Information

Visit https://apcoronavirusupdates.collegeboard.org/coordinators for more information about accommodations and technical requirements for exam day administration. An at-home exam guide will be available by late April.

Will Invest in Kids scholarship recipients be required to take state assessments this Spring?
State law requires Invest in Kids scholarship recipients to be assessed “in the same manner” as public-school students. As State assessments have been suspended, Invest in Kids scholarship recipients will not need to complete State assessments during the Spring 2020 testing window. ISBE is seeking relief from the evaluative study mandated by the Invest in Kids Act that is based on these assessments.

Special Education

(Additional federal guidance HERE.)
(Additional ISBE 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.

Are meals served during spring break eligible for reimbursement?
The meals served during your planned spring break are reimbursable. Count these meals as you have in the past. If your point of service system or student information system does not count or upload the meals because you have to record the days as non-attendance, you may go into WINS and record these meals as reimbursable. Please contact our Nutrition Department at cnp@isbe.net and a staff member can help with the claiming process.

Sports and Athletics
Has IHSA developed any guidance on athletics during COVID-19? NEW 4/27/20
Yes. For IHSA guidance, click HERE.

Employment and Staffing Considerations

(Additional information HERE.)

What is being done to assist pre-service teachers in obtaining their PEL? 
The governor has waived the edTPA and student teaching requirement for educator candidates who have completed all other requirements for licensure. These and other emergency changes to educator licensure will ensure that the COVID-19 does not impact local school district's ability to hire qualified educators they need to support students.

Will employees continued to be paid during "Act of God" days and Remote Learning Days?

Through the duration of the suspension of in-person learning, all school district employees on the district’s payroll will get paid as if the schools were functioning normally and they were performing their normal work, regardless of the district instructional remote learning plans developed during this time. Normal pay includes salary, hourly and stipend pay, benefits, and employees will receive full and normal service credit in their pension systems. No district will lose any Evidence Based Funding as a result of this change.

Can teachers and staff be required to perform work duties during Remote Learning Days?
Yes. Through the period of the suspension of in-person learning, 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 through instructional remote learning, (2) provision of meals, (3) other student and staff support measures as appropriate for each district to effectuate instructional remote learning; and (4) ensuring the performance of essential district functions and operations.

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 Remote Learning 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.

Are there notification procedures if schools find out that a student is ill with COVID-19?
Yes, schools should notify their local public health department.  ISBE should not be notified.

#covid19
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04-18-2020 12:10

It's our pleasure, Stephanie!

04-17-2020 23:53

As usual, IPA has timely and relevant information summarized and posted to help it’s members. Thank you for your extraordinary diligence during this chaotic time in education.

03-20-2020 17:26

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

03-20-2020 17:16

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?

03-20-2020 14:36

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.

03-20-2020 08:55

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

03-16-2020 09:43

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

03-16-2020 08:50

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!