Coronavirus (COVID-19 ) Information
Public Health Guidance:
Updated TEA Public Health Guidance:
Two main changes to the TEA health guidance here as of September 17th. First is that school districts may exclude household-based close contact students and have them stay at home from school for the appropriate quarantine time (as noted here) in an area of high or rising COVID cases. This means that if a child is in the same household as a positive COVID case, the school may have them stay at home to prevent transmission at school.
The second tweak is providing a bit more flexibility to staff that has been identified as a close contact to a positive case. If they continue to be on campus, rapid testing must be done periodically for 10 days past exposure. There was some confusing guidance on the timing of these tests, and this guidance allows the school to schedule these periodically on a schedule that makes sense for the school or district.
Contact tracing is no longer required to be done in public schools, but when cases are reported to the public health authority, they will likely conduct this tracing and notify close contacts. Parents of students who are identified as close contacts may decide to quarantine their child. If the school is made aware of a close contact, they should notify that student’s parents. Staff members who meet the close contact threshold should be tested regularly.
A reminder that private schools are not required to follow every detail of TEA guidance, but since they are setting a standard of care for students in the state, private schools should take note of the guidance and consider it when developing their policies.
Updated Texas Medical Association Return to School Letter:
The Texas Medical Association updated their return to school letter that many schools found handy in order for everyone to understand the diagnosis and quarantine guidelines. This updated letter is found here.
Updated Texas Medical Association Decision Tree for School Nurses:
Many school nurses and other staff found decision trees and other graphics helpful when making decisions about students and staff at school. This updated decision tree that is based on CDC guidelines may be found here.
CDC Case Study of Outbreak in Marin County School:
The case study of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Marin County Elementary school illustrates how this illness may be spread in a classroom. The description from the CDC website is found here.
Definition of Close Contact:
Here is a reminder of the CDC definition of close contact in schools. In most locations, close contacts are defined as within 6 feet of a confirmed case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more within 24 hours.
In schools, it excludes students who were between 3-6 feet apart if properly masked. This exclusion does not apply to adults and staff, only students who were within 3-6 feet with masks on and worn properly. Austin Public Health created a graphic flowchart here that helps clarify these guidelines.
The CDC reversed its July 9th guidance to recommend that everyone, fully vaccinated or not, remain masked indoors in areas of high transmission of the Delta variant of COVID-19, and this includes schools. The CDC school-specific guidance is here.
Governor Abbott has issued an executive order that public schools cannot mandate masks. Private schools have discretion here to require masks on campus if they so choose. Fifty or so local school districts and municipalities are defying the Governor’s order and instituting a mask mandate regardless of the executive order. These fights continue to play out in court.
These local mandates vary in terms of applicability to private schools. The Dallas order does not include private schools, but does include licensed child care centers, and the county judge “hopes that private schools will comply”. The Bexar County order specifically does include private schools. The Harris County order includes non-religious private schools.
If you live in one of these areas with a local mandate and are not sure how it affects your school, please contact your school attorney for interpretation of these conflicting orders.
Vision, Hearing, and Spinal Screenings Changes:
Javier Velez has been selected as the new Vision, Hearing, and Spinal Screening Program Manager following the retirement of former manager Elijah Brown. His goal is to work together in order to better serve our community. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512)776-7420. A reminder that these screenings are required to be reported from private and public schools. More information will likely come if there are any changes to the reporting system this year due to the Delta variant.
On September 15th, the free rapid COVID testing program changed. They will no longer be provided from TDEM, but rather they will be provided by private vendors through a program designed by the TEA and DSHS. One-pager here. Slide deck with more details on this program is here. FAQs are here. Private schools are going to have more options for testing and this will all be provided by third-party vendors paid for by the TEA through DSHS. The recording of the webinar explaining this program is here. The helpful eligibility document is here.
How the New Program Works:
Each private school that is eligible and decides to participate will have a dedicated allotment of money to use in the way that the school chooses to do its testing program. Private schools that apply will be informed of their allocation after they submit their application.
There are three private companies that the school may choose from to do this. The chart of these vendors is here. The school may decide to use one company, 2, or all 3. It is up to the school to contact the chosen companies to set up whatever arrangement works for the school. This money may be used to simply buy the rapid tests and continue testing in the same way as before, or the school may contract with the company to have them do the testing. The school may decide to test only symptomatic people on campus, screen groups before activities, or do random pool testing. PCR tests are now available as well as the rapid antigen tests. Schools may create their own testing program, protocol, and decide what type of test to use. You may start contacting vendors now, or wait until after the webinars so you understand all that is available.
Private School Participant List Changes:
The list of participating private schools dated November 4th is here. (Please be sure to clear your cache and refresh your browsing history before clicking on the link; if not, old information will appear). If you are on this list, go ahead and reach out to vendors directly to get your testing program going. We understand that it is taking some time for the vendors to get stocked to fulfill these orders, so please plan ahead.
You will see that there are 3 new columns that have been added to this spreadsheet. The TEA is logging the expenditures in these columns and the remaining amount in order to track participation and redistribute as needed in the next calendar year.
If you are on the list and no longer wish to participate, please email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org to remove your school from the list!
This list is housed and updated on the TEA website here under “K-12 COVID-19 Testing Project” and it is updated 2-5 times per week. If you are on this list, go ahead and reach out to vendors directly to get your testing program going.
I Applied and My School is Not on the List?:
Please clear your cache and refresh your browser to make sure that you have the most recent spreadsheet of eligible schools. If you still do not see your school on the list, please email COVIDCaseReport@tea.texas.gov.
The most recent vendor list dated October 29th is linked here and can be found on the TEA website. There will be three new vendors added. We are still waiting for their approval through DSHS. We understand that of the current four vendors, Achieve seems to be the one quickest to get tests to schools.
The webinars for all of the vendors participating in the program are here:
Achieve Health Management presentation deck is here and the recording of the webinar is here.
Thermo Fisher Scientific presentation deck is here and the recording of the webinar is here.
Quest Diagnostics recording is here.
The Affinity Empowering recording is here. This is the federal pool testing program that is free to schools.
You may choose one, all, or any combination of these vendors in order to structure your COVID testing program.
Deadlines and Orders:
The TEA has noted that 98% of the reported positive cases are coming from Binax Now Tests from the TDEM program. This seems to indicate that most schools are still using the old tests that are not yet expired. With the new Omicron variant making the news, they want to make sure that all private schools have the tests that they need when school resumes in January. Therefore, if you did not apply for this program before the deadline of November 23rd, please email CovidCaseReport@tea.texas.gov for an emergency exception so your application can be processed. Also, please order supplies for January NOW so that the tests can arrive before school is dismissed for winter break and they are not sitting out in the cold.
Reporting Test Shipments:
Please continue to report within 48 hours when your tests arrive on campus. When you do report the tests that arrived on campus, please report the number of individual tests, not the number of boxes.
Three additional vendors will be added to the list soon. The goal is to have the webinars before winter break so that schools can get orders in for January.
New Applicant Pause:
The TEA will pause accepting applications for schools wanting to start using the testing program for the holidays so that they can clean up the data and see how the allocations are being used. They will cease accepting new applications on November 18th and will reopen the process the week of January 10th.
Points of Clarification:
- You will not pay anything. The vendors will be paid with your allocation, which schools will be made aware of after they submit this application.
- You must design your program to fit in the allotment of money that you will be getting. These allotments will be reconsidered in January.
- You will see mention of a grant program in addition to this testing program. We do not know yet whether private schools can participate in this program because this would be a direct appropriation to the school. We will keep you posted on this, but focus on the private vendor piece for now.
- Please use the email COVIDCaseReport@tea.texas.gov to communicate with the TEA about this program.
- If you have issues with the vendors, please contact DSHS at email@example.com.
- If you have rapid BinaxNOW tests that you will not be using, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. They will redistribute them to schools that need more.
**You will note that there is a fourth vendor listed on the vendor chart called Affinity Empowering. This is a free service provided by the federal government that provides only pool testing. This is an option for schools, but no grant money need be used to access this pool testing.
Some Updates For Testing Coordinators:
1. CLIA Waivers
With the TDEM testing project that ended on September 15th, all tests were covered under one CLIA waiver. Now that we have added private vendors and different types of testing (PCR vs. Antigen), schools will need to apply for their own CLIA waiver which certifies that the school may administer these tests. The cost is $180 and the testing contacts at each school will be contacted and provided information about how to do this. A Quick Start Guide for applying is here and the application itself is here. An example of a completed application is here.
In order to submit your CLIA waiver application, you need to know which Health Facility Compliance Zone of the Texas Department of State Health Services your school is located in. The map of these zones is here. Please submit your application to the appropriate zone. Their contact information is here.
2. Standing Delegation Order
Dr. Hellerstadt, the head of the Department of State Health Services, signed a new Standing Delegation Order that covers all antigen tests on September 29th. The statewide Standing Delegation Order has been updated as of October 22nd to include PCR testing. This should help eliminate one of the bureaucratic hassles before using the more accurate tests that are available.
3. Number Clarification for Test and Services Received Report:
When your tests arrive on campus, you will need to fill out this Test and Services Received Report. This form is to ensure that schools are getting the tests that they need and that the program is being charged the correct amount. Two numbers are needed.
- The first number is the LEA Code/School Code #. For accredited private schools, this will be your TEPSAC number. For unaccredited private schools, DSHS will assign this number.
- The second number is a private school authentication code. You will get both numbers in an email from the TEA in the next 1-2 business days in order to submit this form within 48 hours of receiving the tests on campus. If you need these numbers immediately, please email CovidCaseReport@tea.texas.gov.
If the third party vendor that you choose in this program is doing your reporting for you, be sure to update your permission slips to reflect this change. You will likely want to let parents know that the vendor will have access to this information and they will report it to the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System.
The iphones provided with the initial testing program need to be returned to TDEM using the mailing materials provided with the phone. If you are still using the BinaxNow tests, results may be logged on another device, such as a computer or ipad and the personal data will not be held on that device.
Houston Schools Please Note:
The city of Houston got its own $69 million dollar grant from the federal government to do its own testing program. The webinar explaining the Houston program is here. The TEA will be helping Houston schools while their program gets up and running, so follow the directions above until November 15th when there may be a change for Houston schools.
Does the Prohibition on Standalone Preschools Still Hold?:
Yes, but if you have a preschool as part of your K-12 school, you may count those students and teachers for your allotment and you may use your resources from this program to test preschool students and teachers. If you need to change your enrollment count to include those preschool students, please email COVIDCaseReport@tea.texas.gov.
The FAQs for this testing program may be found here. A recent update involves disposal of these tests: 1. the printed expiration date may be extended by 6 months for a total of 12 months of use and 2. any test that has reached its expiration date may be disposed of as general waste. The bottle of reagent in these expired tests must be disposed of as medical waste per TCEQ requirements here.
Rapid Tests NOT Federal Financial Assistance:
From the US Department of Education:
As you know, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing COVID-19 rapid test kits to States for use in public and private schools to test students and school personnel. You asked some questions to us about this provision of kits, and we are writing to let you know that HHS has advised our Department that it has determined that these COVID-19 rapid test kits under the current emergency circumstances and under this system of distribution does not constitute “federal financial assistance.” HHS has concluded under the limited emergency circumstances of the pandemic at this time, the distribution of these supplies for use by these public and private schools for students and school personnel does not establish an “assistance relationship” with schools. It is our understanding that, absent this current health emergency, schools would not normally engage in these COVID-19 testing activities, and that the supply of these kits does not result in a benefit to the schools themselves but to the students and educational staff and the overall community. This distribution program allows schools to perform a “public community service” during this health emergency by disseminating and administering rapid test kits to teachers, other educational personnel in the schools, and students.
Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
An enormous thank you to Maureen Dowling, Pamela Allen, and others at the Department of Education for working so hard to get this answer for us!
Rapid COVID Tests Disposal:
For those of you administering the rapid COVID tests, here is more information about disposing of the tests.
**Separate Grant for PPE, Other Costs:
The additional $221 million dollar grant application was posted today. This grant, which makes a recipient school a recipient of federal financial assistance, may be used for PPE, hygiene and cleaning supplies, portable air filter, public health events, vaccine promotion events, COVID-19 testing kits and testing services (including vendors not on the list for the COVID testing project), CLIA waivers, and partial funding for staff conducting COVID-related tasks.
Grant applications are due December 9th with the first cash grant payment on January 14th. Private schools are eligible for this grant if they are willing to be a recipient of federal financial assistance. Program guidelines are here. FAQ is here. Webinar recording describing this grant is here with slide deck here. The application itself is here. This is a separate grant from the testing program involving third party vendors.
View the list of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Texas here.
TEA Letters to Confirm Positive Coronavirus Cases:
In the spring, the TEA released sample letters to help districts and schools communicate with parents. These may be found here:
These were released when schools were closing, but you may want to use some of this language in your own communications in consultation with your school attorney. The local health authority will also be instrumental in helping direct these communications once a confirmed case is found on campus.
OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard Details:
Here are the details of the federal vaccine mandate. You can read all 450 pages here. FAQs are here. Fisher Phillips did their own FAQs for schools specifically here. In summary:
- For businesses with 100 employees or more (this counts seasonal, temporary, and employees who work from home but not independent contractors)
- Vaccine plan must be in place by December 6th. All requirements are in effect on this date except the testing requirement.
- Vaccine and testing requirement in place by January 4, 2022
- If employee not vaccinated, he or she must be tested weekly, wear masks, and employees can be charged for the tests
- Employers must accept vaccine exemptions for medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs, but those employees must be tested weekly and wear masks
- Employers must keep a record of each COVID test result for unvaccinated employees and these are considered confidential medical records. These must be maintained as long as the ETS is in effect
- BinaxNow tests are allowed
- Employees must be compensated for 4 hours to get each does of the vaccine and “reasonable” time to recover from any side effects. Employers can require that PTO be used first for the recovery time, but not for the vaccinations.
- If employees work exclusively from home or outdoors, then they do go in the 100 employee count, but may be exempt from these orders
- Employees must tell employers if they test positive for COVID and they must be removed from the work premises. The employer does not have to pay for this time away from work
- Employers must keep a roster of all employees and their vaccination status and there is a list of acceptable ways to prove this status to the employer. These are considered confidential medical records and must be maintained as long as the ETS is in effect
- The fine is listed as up to $14,000 per violation
- OSHA anticipates this ruling lasting six months
- According to OSHA, this mandate pre-empts all other state and local orders on this topic
What About the Governor’s Order?:
That is a really great question, and no one knows the answer. As a reminder, the Governor’s Executive Order, signed October 11th, states that no entity within the state of Texas (including private schools) may require vaccines for employees or consumers unless they provide exemptions for medical reasons (including recovery from COVID-19), religious beliefs, or any reason of personal conscience. Any failure to comply with this order can result in a $1,000 fine. An update on religious accommodations from Fisher Phillips may be found here, although since schools are required to accept any reason of personal conscience, this accommodation process is less important in Texas at this point.
Sixth District Court Update:
The fate of the OSHA vaccine and testing mandate still hangs in the balance at the sixth district court which serves Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan. Last week, the government asked that the stay prohibiting enforcement of this mandate be removed, but the court did not agree to this request. The next date of importance is December 10th, when the brief will be filed. A decision will be made after that date. More information from Fisher Phillips about this process may be found here.
As a reminder, we are recommending that schools with 100 or more employees be aware and prepared in case the court does rule for the administration. The first step will be adopting a vaccine or vaccine and testing policy for the school. There are templates of forms that you may find helpful on the OSHA website here. Fisher Phillips will be offering for $1500 a compliance package consisting of: an attestation form, model employee vaccination status roster, policy documents, training power point for employees, and presentation notes that may be included in conjunction with the power point. Please contact Kristin Smith at email@example.com if you are interested in purchasing a package.
The details of the entire Emergency Temporary Standard may be found on the TPSA website here under “vaccine mandate” or in Fisher Phillips FAQs here.
Mandatory Vaccine Clarification:
Some schools are still confused about whether they can require vaccines for students who are old enough to get the vaccine. Chad Flores at law firm Beck Redden did an analysis of the most recent vaccine legislation here that might be helpful for schools, school boards, and families. He is also happy to help schools that are confronting this issue on the front lines. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious Objections to Vaccine:
Fisher Phillips has a great article about thinking through exemptions from vaccines due to religious objections and possible accommodations here.
Vaccines for Children Ages 5-11 Approved:
On Tuesday, the CDC officially recommended that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated using the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. This program should be up and running the week of November 8th, and your local health authority has likely reached out to you already with interest surveys and details about administration. More information may be found here from the CDC and here from DSHS.
Vaccines for Children Ages 12-15:
There are currently 1.6 million children ages 12-15 in Texas and the vaccine has been shown to be 100% effective for this age range. The Department of State Health Services is trying to make it easier for smaller vaccine providers to access and distribute these vaccines by reducing the required minimum dose order and allowing a longer storage time for these doses. If you think you might be interested in providing these vaccines, please email enrollTexasIZ@dshs.texas.gov or go here for more information. Current providers do not need to re-enroll. A few other items:
1. The dose and schedule is the same as that for adults.
2. Parental consent is required, but parents do not need to be present at the vaccination.
3. Any child with medical issues should be vaccinated at his or her “medical home” or current doctor.
4. Providers should be aware of the schedule for other regularly scheduled childhood vaccines and make sure that the COVID vaccine is spaced accordingly. There has been a great disruption in childhood vaccinations and providers are encouraged to use this opportunity to make sure that children get scheduled for all needed vaccines.
Vaccine Side Effects:
Information may be found here from Fisher Phillips relating to vaccine side effects. Be careful if planning one vaccine clinic for all staff, because many may have symptoms at once which could cause some problems during a school day!
Cares Act Part Two/American Rescue Plan:
Federal Relief Package – The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA):
Passed on December 21st and signed by the President on December 27th, this $2.3 trillion dollar omnibus bill includes a few items of relevance to private schools.
EANS (Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools): is a program within the second round of GEER funds:
Texas will get $153 million dollars from the federal government specifically for private school COVID relief. Every school is eligible, regardless of the number of low income students. This program will be administered through one office at the TEA (not local school districts), and TPSA is working closely with them to create the most simple and user-friendly application possible. The application is not ready yet, but it should be ready in the next month.
In the FAQs from the Department of Education, they stated very clearly that even reimbursements to private schools for previous COVID-related purchases do NOT make a school a recipient of federal financial assistance. However, these items for which schools are reimbursed or items that are purchased using these funds will technically become property of the state. There is a slight chance that the state could come back at the end of this grant period (2023) and take back items purchased. It is a slim chance, but something to keep in mind when planning uses of these funds.
- Supplies to sanitize, disinfect, and clean school facilities
- Improving ventilation systems, including windows or portable air purification systems
- Training and professional development for staff on sanitization, the use of PPE, and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.
- Physical barriers to facilitate social distancing
- Other materials, supplies or equipment recommended by the CDC for reopening and operation of school facilities to effectively maintain health and safety
- Expanding capacity to administer coronavirus testing to effectively monitor and suppress the virus
- Educational technology
- Redeveloping instructional plans for remote or hybrid learning or to address learning loss
- Leasing sites or spaces to ensure social distancing
- Reasonable transportation costs
- Initiating and maintaining education and support services or assistance for remote or hybrid learning or to address learning loss
- Reimbursement for the expenses of any services or assistance described above that a non-public school incurred on or after March 13, 2020 except for the services or assistance below:
These MAY NOT be reimbursed:
- Improvements to ventilation systems (including windows), except for portable air purification systems, which may be reimbursed
- Any expenses reimbursed with a PPP loan
- Staff training and professional development on sanitization, the use of PPE, and minimizing the spread of COVID-19
- Developing instructional plans, including curriculum development, for remote or hybrid learning or to address learning loss
- Initiating and maintaining education and support services or assistance for remote or hybrid learning or to address learning loss.
Communication from Region 10:
We have heard the frustration from many of you about the delays in getting reimbursements and services started with the EANS grant. We are in close communication with Region 10 and they completely understand the frustration and are working hard to get some extra help to get these things out to you as soon as humanly possible. Please do show a little grace here because they are as frustrated as we are in not being able to keep up with demand in as timely a manner as they are used to doing it. Having said that, if you have an immediate and urgent need (such as not being able to make payroll), please make them aware of this situation and they will do everything they can to help! Some other pointers:
1. Right now, applications are taking 8 weeks to process. If they can get some more help, this will shorten.
2. Please do not resubmit your applications. They are taking them in order of receipt and have currently processed over $10,000,000 in reimbursements and services.
3. For D3 items – you may only submit requests to Region 10 for things that were on your school’s EANS application. If you listed hand sanitizer and you are requesting math manipulatives, this will be rejected. Please try to get a quote for what you need and upload that as part of your request. If Region 10 has to shop for you, it adds time.
Questions? Laura and Amber are available every Tuesday from 10am to 12pm for individual help. They are happy to talk to you about any and all of these issues. Zoom link is here. One of them will likely join us at our next Zoom on December 14th as well. We are all in this together, and we will make sure it works out for everyone!
EANS 1 Update – Transportation Liability:
Some of you who requested the purchase of vehicles with EANS money have been notified of a liability issue with this request. The state has decided that they cannot purchase a vehicle in a school’s name because the school needs to assume liability for the vehicle. However, they can contract transportation for the school or use this funding in some other EANS allowable way.
EANS 1 Round 2 Update – Allocation Amount:
As you know, the amount requested in EANS 1 Round 2 exceeded the amount that was allocated. Schools that applied for EANS 1 Round 2 can expect to receive around 30-35% of what they asked for. Schools with a higher poverty count will receive more. These amounts should be released on December 3rd.
More IDEA Funds Released Soon:
In the next few weeks, extra IDEA funds will be released to the local school districts. This will result in 20-25% increase in funds for each school district. If some of your private school students are receiving services, they may be entitled to more once these funds are released. Be sure to contact your special education liaison at the school district to make sure your students are getting their fair share! The individual school district allocations may be found here.
EANS 1 Round 2 Confusion:
There was some confusion that some EANS 1 Round 2 applications had already been approved. Schools did get a confirmation of receipt of the application, but the amounts are not yet finalized. The amount asked for in the applications was more than the grant allocation, so not everything will be fully funded. Please do not purchase items based on this application confirmation. The awards should be released by Monday, December 6th. Questions? Laura and Amber are still hosting drop-in Zooms from 10am to 12pm on Tuesdays. Zoom link is here.
Another Round Coming – EANS 2, but with Poverty Count:
The application for EANS 2 (another $152 million dollars) was submitted to the US Department of Education by the Governor’s office on the deadline of Sept. 9th. If the poverty level of 22% is accepted by the USDE, then only approximately 152 schools of the schools that applied for EANS 1 would be eligible for this second round of funding if we simply look at the poverty count in the first round applications.
However, there is a way to calculate this poverty count using proportionality that is more cumbersome, but could allow schools a significantly higher poverty count. We have many people able to help you think through this process. Lydia Callahan with Palmetto Fortis – email@example.com, Warren Dillon with Catapult Learning firstname.lastname@example.org, and David Sexauer with DAST Consulting email@example.com.
It remains true that schools that received the second round of PPP loans are not eligible for EANS 1 or 2.
Stay tuned for more information and application in early November.
All EANS information may be found on this TEA website. Questions may be directed to EANS@tea.texas.gov.
**You Can’t Take Both: If you want to apply for the PPP in order to get the money before it runs out, you may do so. Don’t accept the money you are awarded if you intend to apply for EANS funds. If you decide that the EANS funds are a better option for your school, you may submit documentation of not taking the PPP loan with your EANS application to the TEA.
Direct Forgiveness Portal Opened:
On July 28th, the Small Business Administration opened a portal for loan forgiveness for loans of $150,000 or less. More information may be found here. Analysis of this change from SST may be found here.
The loan necessity questionnaire is also no longer required to process loan forgiveness decisions. This relieves some of the paperwork burden in forgiving these loans. More information from Jackson Walker here.
Other Pieces of the Federal Legislation:
***Employee Retention Tax Credit:
An interesting article here in Inc. indicates that the Employee Retention Tax Credit may go away in order to fund the new federal infrastructure bill. This article from SST sets the deadline at September 30, 2021. If your school has not looked into applying for refund for payroll taxes, please do so quickly. You may complete this application yourself, or Andrew Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org) with Synergi Partners is available to help complete these applications for schools with at least 20 employees before these funds are reallocated elsewhere.
There are many, many programs (PPP, EANS, Employee Retention Tax Credit, Emergency Connectivity Fund, Erate) that we have tried to explain to all private schools, but exhaustion and confusion are completely understandable at this point. We have found a consultant that is available to talk through all of these options with schools. David Sexauer (email@example.com) is available for quick Zooms to answer questions about all of these programs, whether your school is eligible, and if they are worth your time.
This still-available loan may have been overlooked in all of the information about the second round of PPP loans. The Small Business Administration continues to administer these loans and information is here. These loans are not forgivable, and the terms are 2.75% interest for 30 years. The amount available is 6 months of working capital for a maximum of $150,000.
If you have already received one of these loans, and it was less than $150,000, you may request an increase in your existing SBA EIDL loan.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Limit Raised:
The Small Business Administration raised the EIDL loan limit to $500,000, up from $150,000. These low interest loans (2.75% for non-profits) have proven popular with business and school struggling to recover from the pandemic. They also extended the deferment period on March 12th so that repayments do not have to be made until 2022. An article from the Journal of Accountancy describes these changes here, and more information from the SBA website with application is here.
Paid Sick Leave/Family Medical Leave Tax Credits:
While the FFCRA mandate to pay sick leave and family medical leave expired at the end of 2020, schools may still offer this leave and take the tax credit through September 30th, 2021. The new federal legislation also increases the credit amount and expands the reasons that this leave may be taken. If an employee has taken all of the eligible hours, another bank of 10 days goes into effect on April 1st. Schools should take care to offer this leave to all employees equally if it is decided to continue this benefit. More information may be found here.
Updated FAQs for FFCRA Employee Sick and Family Leave:
The IRS issued an update to the FAQs for employers who have continued to voluntarily provide this leave from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021. Please find an explanation by SST here along with a link to the FAQs.
Emergency Connectivity Fund Window Opens Again:
The Federal Communications Commission announced that it awarded $5.1 billion dollars to fund 9.1 million connected devices in the first application window. Texas received $496,488,916.30. They are reopening this opportunity from September 28th to October 13th for schools and libraries for the purchase of laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students and school staff in need and is available to support off-campus learning, such as homework, even if schools have returned to full time in-person instruction. Your e-rate expert or consultant can help you apply for these funds. More information is here.
This may be a great option for schools that were not eligible to apply for EANS because they took the PPP Loan #2. This fund would buy devices for students and internet access and equipment if needed. Schools may be considered a recipient of federal financial assistance if they participate in this program. Update: Schools that apply for this grant do not have to use an application that would make them a recipient of federal financial assistance. If you do apply for this fund and are concerned about being a recipient of federal financial assistance, DO NOT register with SAM.gov and go the invoicing route, not the reimbursement route. More information may be found here on the National Catholic Education Association website. While this information is specifically for Catholic schools, it applies to other types of private schools as well.
This application is very similar to the E-rate application, so schools that already participate in the E-rate program have a head start in understanding this process. It is a complicated process and application, but there are consultants ready to help. David
Sexauer is an expert in this field and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are not familiar with the E-rate program, which has been in existence since 1996, and would like to consider getting reimbursed for internet access and equipment costs, contact David Sexauer at email@example.com.
Information for Child Care Centers:
Resources for Child Care Centers:
While some of our early childhood centers have been able to take advantage of programs like the PPE distribution and rapid COVID tests, many are left out of federal programs designed for K-12 schools. Here is a comprehensive guide to programs specific for child care programs compiled by the National Association for the Education of Young Children that might be helpful: Navigating Relief for Child Care Providers – Google Docs
Statewide Executive Orders
PRIVATE SCHOOLS RELEASED FROM TEA GUIDELINES:
The executive order (found here) states the following: “For the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, public schools may resume operations for the summer as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols found in, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Private schools and institutions of higher education are encouraged to establish similar standards. Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, schools may conduct graduation ceremonies consistent with the minimum standard health protocols found in guidance issued by the TEA.”
What Does This Mean?:
This means that private schools may publish their own reopening standards. Two important things to keep in mind:
1. The TEA guidelines establish a standard of care. This means that to deviate from these guidelines too much may open your school to legal liability.
2. The executive order states explicitly that the private school plan should be “similar” to the TEA plan. This is a directive to stay as close to the TEA plan as possible while creating a reopening scenario that fits your individual campus.
All of the guidance established by the state, as well as helpful documents from the Centers for Disease Control and other entities, may be found below under “Reopenings.”
This is the guidance for public schools, and private schools were directed by the Governor to create their own plan. However, please remember that this document and any revisions thereafter are creating a standard of care for schoolchildren in Texas. Deviating greatly from these recommendations could result in increased liability for your school.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GUIDANCE:
Attorney General Ken Paxton released another letter of guidance stating that local health authorities may not preemptively close any private school (religious or non-religious) due to threat of virus spread. The decision to open and close is up to local private school leaders. If outbreaks of an illness do occur in a school, then the health authority may take action.
I Wear a Mask Because:
If you are looking for resources to help explain to parents the importance of wearing masks, the TEA has published editable PDFs that may be helpful here in English and here in Spanish. This is a resource for you if you want it. Distributing these documents is not required.
More Health and Safety Resources:
The TEA has published a Public Health Operational Guidebook to help schools and school districts incorporate all of these health and safety measures that are in the updated TEA guidance. At the end of this guidebook, there is a series of tabletop exercises to practice what to do in a given circumstance. These scenarios come with an answer key in order to practice what to do if these situations happen in your school, according to the TEA. There may be more trainings happening in conjunction with this guidebook and these exercises through the regional service centers and we will pass along any details that we get.
Other Helpful Documents
Helpful EEOC Guidance for COVID in the Workplace:
A document published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may answer some questions about how to handle issues of accommodations, testing, medical information, etc. in the workplace. For example, if an employee calls in sick, you can’t ask for medical information about any family members, but you can ask if the employee has had close contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis.
Rosner Space Planning Tool:
Are you wondering how to incorporate social distancing into your classrooms and how many children can fit? There is a free tool designed by a junior at CalTech that does the work for you. The link for the website where you can download the Rosner model is here. The link to the webinar to learn how to use this tool is on YouTube here.
Ari is also helping schools with planning for larger spaces like auditoriums, chapels, stadiums, and even buses. There is a new paid option on the website under “Space Planning Model” that allows for more complex room configurations and variable social distancing.
A Little Mask Humor:
Something about this has to be funny, right? Find here some real possibilities of what we are going to face in dealing with children wearing masks in schools. Masks are not mandated statewide at this point, but many schools are incorporating them in their reopening plans.
Resources from TEA
Project Restore is a new online training launched by the TEA to help with the mental health issues of the pandemic.
OnRamps Distance Learning Catalogue:
UT Austin is providing free self-paced training for middle and high school teachers who will be teaching in a distance learning or hybrid model this year. This program draws from over 8 years of experience in offering distance education and professional learning and development. The webinar about this program will be on Tuesday, August 18th at 3pm and will be recorded for later viewing. More information may be found here.
The TEA has quickly put together a website with a schedule and sample curriculum for PreK – Grade 5 to help districts and schools that are struggling with distance learning. This is an ongoing project, but may be helpful for schools that still have some questions about how to complete the school year in a meaningful way.
Private School Resources
NAIS Sharing Solutions:
The National Association of Independent Schools has set up a website called Sharing Solutions, which is open to all to share ideas and resources during this challenging time. You can post and browse school examples about distance learning, rethinking operations, caring for community, and more.
From the National Association of Independent Schools https://www.nais.org/articles/pages/additional-covid-19-guidance-for-schools/?utm_source=hpc&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=mc&utm_content=mc
From the Association of Christian Schools International: https://community.acsi.org/coronavirusresources/home – includes information about the Coronavirus as well as low-cost or free online learning, and tuition and employment information.
The Southern Association of Independent Schools is happy to share its resources, which are being updated constantly: https://www.sais.org/general/custom.asp?page=Coronavirus_Resources_for_Schools
A compilation of all free resources offered by Ed Tech companies
Catapult Learning is also offering a new webinar called “Supercharging In-Home Lesson Design” here.
FACTS is offering a series of webinars hosted by thought leaders in online learning here.
Wide Open School is a free collection of the best online learning experiences for kids curated by the editors at Common Sense. Featured content includes Khan Academy, Scholastic, PBS, YouTube, and National Geographic.
FACTS offers many resources about all of the issues that schools are grappling with right now – the best online teaching practices, pivoting school marketing strategies, data privacy, understanding the CARES Act, etc. These may all be found here.
The Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools has put together a very helpful document about dealing with death in the school community.