Coronavirus (COVID-19 ) Information
View the list of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Texas here.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has graphs for each state predicting the day of peak resource usage and deaths here.
Positive Test Communications:
Schools are getting confirmed and presumptive positive test results for staff and students. The TEA has provided guidance on when this information should be distributed to the community and template letters on their website here. The templates are word documents under the section entitled “Closure Guidance and Communication Resources.”
Private schools are not required to use the templates provided, but certainly may do so. It is important, however, to follow the instructions at the top of the letter about when to inform the community of positive or presumed positive test results.
Statewide Executive Orders
PRIVATE SCHOOLS RELEASED FROM TEA GUIDELINES:
The most recent 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 for the summer. 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.”
Please note that graduation guidance remains the same in the most recent executive order.
What About Accreditation?:
Some accreditation commissions have already released standards for their summer programs that are in progress. For example, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops release their summer program standards last week and they may be found here. Other accreditation commissions will likely have some direction for their schools. Please contact them for this information.
Thank you Governor Abbott and the Strike Force!:
TPSA has been in close touch with the Governor’s office throughout this pandemic. We made sure that they understood the unique nature and needs of private schools, and they responded with this directive that will allow us to keep children safe while continuing to educate them in a mission-centered context.
Thank you to those of you who reached out to help with our lobbying effort and contacted strike force members with whom you have relationships. Anyone else who did not get the opportunity to reach out to contacts on the Governor’s strike force may certainly still do so in order to thank them for taking the needs of private schools into account in this important work they are doing.
What About Fall?:
The TEA published and then retracted health and safety guidance that may be found here. The assumption is that the recent increase in cases of COVID-19 in the state has caused the agency to retract this draft to possibly rethink what will be required for public schools to open in the fall. An analysis of this draft guidance from the Texas Tribune is found here. The Commissioner mentioned that the strike force is working fast and furiously to get it finalized, but no release date was mentioned.
Local Health Mandates:
It is our understanding that most, if not all, of the local mandates about things like mandatory masks, submitting school reopening plans, etc. DO include private schools.
Each of these local orders is different, so please reach out to your local authorities to determine if your school must comply with these local health and safety mandates. These local leaders include mayors and county judges.
There is also the issue of a standard of care for students and teachers. If all other schools in your area are requiring masks for everyone on campus and your school is not, you may be open to liability if a student or teacher gets sick on your campus. We will try to get more clarity on this issue when on-campus guidelines are officially released for public schools, but we do not know exactly when this will happen.
In-person graduations may be held this year, subject to the constraints in this guidance (ceremonies begin on page 8). This includes outdoor graduations after June 1st, outdoor graduations in rural communities at an earlier date, vehicle drive-through ceremonies, and hybrid graduations (bringing students on campus in small groups to make videos that are shown in a large scale virtual ceremony). These ceremonies include any kind of commencement including kindergarten graduation and middle school graduation. It is not limited to high school graduation. Please note that if the health situation worsens, this guidance may change.
**If you have other ideas for your graduation or other school activities that you think may comply with this or the other executive orders, reach out to your legal counsel and local law enforcement for permission.**
There are a few videos on the TEA website that you may incorporate into your graduation ceremony if you wish. Commissioner Morath has one here. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick produced a fancier one here that includes celebrities. The Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughes has one here. The graduation ceremony guidance is here.
Reopenings – Official State Guidance for Child Care, Summer Camps, and Public Schools
The official state guidance for child care is here. Licensed child cares may open immediately to all families, not just essential workers.
Summer school may begin on June 1st. Official state guidance is here.
Reopenings – Other Helpful Documents
Centers for Disease Control Recommendations:
The CDC has published simple decision-make flow charts for child care, summer camps, and school. The CDC also released more detailed recommendations yesterday for reopening child care centers, summer camps, and schools here on pages 40-48. These are recommendations and these documents defer to the state guidance linked above.
The American Camp Association released this field guide for camps that gives more detailed advice about all activities popular at camps. The field guide offers best practices for everything from swimming to arts and crafts. This is an additional resource for your information, not additional regulation.
American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendation:
The nation’s pediatricians released a strong statement in support of returning to in-person school this fall. The official statement is here, and analysis is here.
American Federation of School Administrators:
This national administrator group has issued a new guide for reopening schools safely.
Fisher Phillips has a FAQ document here that may answer more questions that you have about how to safely reopen your school.
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.
Private School Reopening Documents:
ACSI has provided a decision-making matrix for reopening here. There was a suggestion on an NAIS webinar today to have a few students on campus to make a video of the health and safety procedures that you choose for your school. This is a great way to test out the strategies with real children and to allow parents and students at home to see what will be expected of them on campus in the fall.
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.
PPE From TEA
The spreadsheet with quantities of PPE for each public school district and private school that completed the survey may be found here. They are still gathering information via a survey for public schools, but private schools have done all that they need to do.
We will get more information about distribution in early July. Private schools on the list will likely need to pick up this PPE at the closest Educational Service Center.
Immunizations & Health Screenings
Vision, hearing, and spinal screenings are not required for the 2019-2020 school year. Schools may report screening results of previously performed screenings by July 31st for the 2019-2020 school year if they elect to do so. Results can be submitted to DSHS online at the Child Health Reporting System. If you have any questions, please email VHSSprogram@dshs.texas.gov.
The immunization requirements are still in place for the 2020-2021 school year.
Vision and Hearing Training:
The DSHS Vision, Hearing and Spinal Screening Program will be offering virtual Vision and Hearing Recertification workshops effective July 13, 2020 for individuals who have a current vision and hearing certification that will expire December 31, 2020.
Trainings will be conducted through Microsoft Teams, and will not require specialized software. Please contact the Regional Coordinator for your area to sign up. Their contact information may be found here.
Cares Act Equitable Services
Texas was allotted $1,285,886,000 of the $13.5 billion in the CARES Act for coronavirus relief for US K-12 education.
Here is the link where you may see what your local school district is entitled to. Private schools will get a proportionate share of these funds due to the total K-12 enrollment of their school as of March. This will happen in the same way that other federal funds have been distributed in the past – through equitable services.
This means that the local school district consults with each private school about hteir needs related to this pandemic and arranges to meet these needs by purchasing items or services that remain under the control of the local school district, but are in use at the private school. This allows a school to avoid being a recipient of federal funds. You do NOT need to have participated in these equitable services discussions before in order to participate now.
Consultation Happening Soon:
We hope you have made contact with the person in your local school district who is in charge of federal programs. If not, a sample letter may be found here. This is the person you will be consulting with in order to receive these services. The local school district may not apply to receive their funds until they have consulted with every private school located in their district. This does NOT include for-profit schools or stand alone preschools.
In order to be ready for your consultation, please have:
- your K-12 enrollment as of March
- your needs assessment (see list of eligible items below)
- your personal calendar for any follow-up meetings
- your school calendar for anything that needs to be scheduled like a deep cleaning or technology delivery
- your personal contact information so that the district can contact you at any time with follow-up questions, etc.
- the law with the exact language of what is eligible, the guidance from the US Department of Education, and
What These Funds Can Be Used For:
- tutoring for next year
- counseling for students
- online subscriptions
- Zoom licenses
- technology (schools may not be reimbursed for purchases already made. If you have already purchased technology, you may be able to have the vendor re-invoice the school district and issue a refund to the school. Ask your school district about this possibility.)
- cleaning supplies
- professional development
While you may have some acute needs now that could be immediately addressed (e.g. purchasing of distance education technology for students), you may also arrange to have some services delivered at a later time (e.g. scheduling a deep cleaning of school facilities a month prior to the academic year commencing in the fall).
Any funding that is not used within one year must be returned to the US Department of Education so that it may be reallocated to other states.
ESSER Funding Update from TEA:
The webinar this morning explained the new ways that funding for equitable services may be calculated after the interim final rule from the Department of Education was officially released yesterday. A video of the webinar may be found here once it is uploaded to the TEA YouTube channel. A brief summary is that each school district may decide to only use ESSER funds on Title I (low income) public schools instead of all of their schools. If the public school district decides to do this, then there are 3 ways that the private school share may be calculated:
1a. the district may use the percentage of funding that was allocated in the 2019-2020 school year for Title I private school equitable services and redistribute that amount to all private schools interested in participating in ESSER funds for COVID-19 expenses
1b. the district may take a new count of children in private schools who live in a Title I service area and use that percentage of funds to redistribute to all private schools interested in participating in ESSER funds for COVID-19 expenses.
2. the district may use the same calculation that they were using for the previous guidance which is based on the total enrollment for private schools. This is the best option for private schools.
This decision is up to the school districts. However, this calculation must be discussed with the private schools that are interested in participating and agreement must be reached. If you have already had consultation with your public school district, they will be reaching out to you again to discuss these changes.
If you have had a consultation with your local school district that was unsatisfactory, please do try to communicate with the district to make sure they understand what your school needs to recover from this pandemic. Also, keep all documentation of communication with the school district.
If all else fails, we have an ombudsman at the TEA to help resolve disputes. Please email PNPOmbudsman@tea.texas.gov.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
This legislation is designed to keep staff employed. If you think your school might be interested in receiving one of these forgivable loans, the recommendation is to go ahead and apply here. The actual loans come through your bank, so you may also go ahead and contact your back to get more information and perhaps to get the process started.
If you do access a loan and decide to use it, it is suggested that you put it in a separate account and pay only for eligible expenses (payroll, mortgage interest, interest on debt obligation, rent, and utilities) and keep detailed documentation of these payments.
PPP – We Have the Money, What Do We Do Now?:
This is a very important question to answer before you use the money that was provided by the Paycheck Protection Program. As you know, using this money makes schools recipients of federal financial assistance, so you will need to consider the requirements of Title VI, Title IX, the Age Discrimination Act, and Section 504. This includes appointing a Title IX coordinator who is responsible for compliance for the school and looking at your 504 accommodations policy.
Your school attorney will be helpful in making sure you meet all of these requirements, even if only for the brief time of the loan. Fisher Phillips is also offering a package compliance program for $3,000 to make sure schools meet these requirements. For more information, contact Kristin Smith at email@example.com
PPP and the Media:
It is possible that the Small Business Administration may be releasing a list of the recipients of these loans. If you did apply and receive these funds, please make sure that you are ready and able to clearly articulate the need for these loans to your community and possibly the press. The recommendation is to focus on the purpose of the loan, which was to make sure that all employees could continue to be paid. Any school that received more than $2 million dollars will be audited.
There is still funding available if you have not applied and may want to participate in this program. The details of this program keep changing, and Congress is debating more changes to come. The US Chamber of Commerce has a comprehensive guide to loan forgiveness here.
PPP Loans Extended:
The deadline to apply for Paycheck Protection Loan program was extended to August 8th. The list of recipients was released, and you may find a Texas-specific summary from the Texas Tribune here.
PPP Revised Loan Forgiveness Application:
There is still $130 billion left in the Paycheck Protection Program for any school that has not yet applied and still wants to. The deadline is June 30th. The names of schools (and every entity) that borrowed over $150,000 will be released by the Small Business Administration. The link to the new application to have the PPP loan forgiven is here. Information about changes to the program (as of June 5th) that provided more flexibility in the use of these funds and the forgiveness policies is here.
Other CARES Act Provisions
Payroll Tax Credit Deferral:
There are some other programs that are of benefit to private schools including a payroll tax credit of up to $10,000 per employee (Section 2301) and the option to defer payment of payroll taxes (Section 2302). More information from BDO may be found here. Previously, entities that took the PPP loans were not eligible for these deferrals, but this was changed so that is no longer true.
There is language in the legislation increasing the amount of unemployment compensation that people are eligible for by $600 per week and extending eligibility to employees who may not have been eligible for these benefits before this health crisis. If you have laid off employees due to this disaster, you may encourage them to apply for unemployment insurance. They may be eligible now unlike before the passage of this new law. Again, details of these changes are to be determined.
The new laws took effect on April 1st, so you may have employees that are requesting this paid sick leave and/or extended family and medical leave. Fisher Phillips has a list of the top 10 things employers should know about these new laws here and some clarifying documents about the tax credits that may be used to pay for this leave here.
Here is an updated handy chart from Fisher Phillips with summaries of the new laws for emergency paid sick leave and family medical leave that can be reimbursed with tax credits.
ACSI released updated guidance here.
Resources from TEA
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
Open Letter to Independent Schools:
There are many questions and few answers about how this school year will end and what next year will look like. This letter to private schools written by Ben Scafidi from Kennesaw State University offers the opinions of experts on the likely health environment for the next school year, financial implications for private schools, and educational considerations for the 2020-2021 academic year. This is a good framework for thinking through the next school year and formulating a plan.
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.
Enrollment Plan for Next Year:
Mission Advancement is offering a low-cost service to help with strategies for enrollment for 2020-2021. Find out more 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.
We mentioned this week that the FBI has reported an uptick in online predatory behavior. Praesidium is offering some quick and easy guidance for staff and administrators to ensure appropriate boundaries and professionalism while working from home.
A free tool from Armanino that enables schools to measure and forecast the impact of COVID-19 on its 2021 operating budget may be found here. This will allow schools to tell the financial story for 2021 to all parents, administration, and board members in a way that is easy to understand.