Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2020) - The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today held a webinar with the nation’s state education chiefs and representatives of several federal agencies: Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Federal Communications Commission.
“We are living and working in unprecedented times as states and communities across the country face the impacts of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. As the organization that represents state education leaders across the country, CCSSO hosted this first webinar among federal officials to provide guidance and answer critical questions related to the educational impacts of the coronavirus. CCSSO will continue to provide leadership and work closely with federal agencies to get state education chiefs the guidance they need, and to help support states as they make decisions that are in the best interest of their students, staff and communities,” said CCSSO Executive Director Carissa Moffat Miller. “We recognize this is an ever-evolving situation and these agencies are working hard to issue guidance and provide answers as quickly as possible. We appreciate them taking the time today to provide the best information possible at this time.”
CCSSO has launched a new website at www.ccsso.org/coronavirus to house all federal resources related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) impact on schools. This includes recently released FAQs and fact sheets from the U.S. Department of Education.
In general, on the call today, Education Department officials said they expect to receive more, and more complicated, waiver requests than usual, and are adjusting staffing accordingly. Waivers for affected districts and states will be considered after the fact, so that officials can devote their full attention to the rapidly changing crisis at hand, department leaders said.
Topics discussed, and guidance offered, included:
*School closure decisions: CDC leaders discussed measures that school officials might consider, depending on the extent of transmission in that community. CCSSO anticipates additional guidance from CDC related to school closure decisions will be coming this week.
*School meal programs: Representatives from the USDA pointed to the proactive approval of waivers for the school meal program announced earlier this week. They anticipate approving waivers within 24 hours of receipt. Districts should consider using the summer meals program, which can operate at any time school is not in session. USDA is looking to make it easier for schools with smaller populations of free and reduced price lunch-eligible students to create these out-of-school feeding programs.
*Serving students with disabilities: Officials pointed to a document released this afternoon that lays out school and district responsibilities for continuing to provide services to student with disabilities in varying school closure scenarios.
*Annual assessments: Education Department officials said they expect that states will make every reasonable effort to administer assessments. As the situation continues to develop, officials will consider one-year waivers of required assessments. If assessment participation falls below the required 95 percent due to absences caused by coronavirus, the department will also consider waiving inclusion of the participation rate in schools’ academic achievement indicators.
*Every Student Succeeds Act: The Education Department will consider targeted one-year waivers for schools identified for targeted or comprehensive support, if those schools are closed for a substantial amount of time due to the coronavirus. The department will also consider one-year waivers of the use of chronic absenteeism in school accountability systems.
*Online and distance learning: Several programs administered under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act may be used to provide technology for distance learning, including grants under Title IV A, Small Rural School Achievement, Rural and Low Income School, some Impact Aid programs and Promise Neighborhoods. Title IIA grants may also be used for professional development and staff training on technology, and the department is looking at other possibilities.
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.
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