Coronavirus (COVID-19 ) Information
Statewide Executive Order
Schools are now closed and dependent on distance learning until May 4th by the Governor’s new Executive Order.
Schools may open on Monday, May 4th assuming there is no extension of this executive order or another order by a local mayor or county judge. The clarification of when schools may open is here in this document by the Texas Education Agency at the bottom of page two.
Who Are Essential Workers?:
There are questions about who is allowed to be on campus. This is the language from the most recent Executive Order. This guidance may be found here if you are getting questions.
A sample letter authorizing employees to travel to school may be found here.
The guidance was posted today and may be found here. While school must not be in regular operation, the residential program may remain open to serve the students who need to live on campus. The priority should be the health and safety of students, staff, and communities.
There is an update to the guidance for boarding schools that was released at the beginning of the week. There is some clarification on having staff on campus at the bottom of this revised document.
View the list of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Texas 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.
Back to Work Guidelines:
If you have employees that have tested positive or been symptomatic, there is updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on when they can return to work. Fisher Phillips explains these new guidelines here.
If you have a licensed child care center, this part of your school may stay open. The idea is that you will be able to take care of the children of health care workers and first responders.
Please be aware that this may be more difficult than it sounds. Based on the experience of schools in other states that are farther along in this process than we are, it becomes difficult to staff the program and maintain the standards for licensing. You should probably communicate with parents so that they have appropriate expectations. All licensed child care centers should be following this guidance that was effective as of Monday of this week.
Guidance for Licensed Child Care Centers:
There is a discussion about converting existing child care centers to emergency child care for health care workers and first responders. If you are interested in this effort, contact your local health authority first to make sure there is a need. If so, some guidance from the TEA and DSHS may be found here. If you are a childcare center exempt from licensing due to your accreditation, be sure to get legal advice before opening a childcare center under these emergency conditions. There are likely liability issues with this.
- Prohibit any person except the following from accessing an operation: operation staff; persons with legal authority to enter, including law enforcement officers, HHSC Child Care Licensing staff, and Department of Family and Protective Services staff; professionals providing services to children; children enrolled at the operation; and parents or legal guardians who have children enrolled and present at the operation.
- Require pickup and drop-off of children outside of the operation, unless its determined that there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter an operation.
- Before allowing entry into the operation, screen all individuals listed above, including taking the temperature of each person upon arrival at the operation each day, and deny entry to any person who meets any of the following criteria:
- A temperature of 100.4°F or above;
- Signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, and low-grade fever;
- In the previous 14 days has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19; is under investigation for COVID-19; or is ill with a respiratory illness; or
- In the previous 14 days has traveled internationally to countries with widespread, sustained community transmission. For updated information on affected countries, visit:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/travelers/index.html.
- Ensure that each child is provided individual meals and snacks. Do not serve family-style meals.
Because this situation is rapidly evolving, child care providers are highly encouraged to contact the Child Care Licensing (CCL) team at MSC@hhsc.state.tx.us. CCL is prepared to answer questions, provide technical assistance, and grant regulatory flexibility to operations when needed to protect children in care.
School Meal Distribution:
Please share this website with families who rely on school meals: https://schoolmealfinder.hoonuit.com/
This is a map of every location in the state that is distributing meals through the free and reduced-price lunch program.
STAAR tests are canceled for this year. Some have already been shipped. Please adhere to security protocols for those tests.
There should be some ongoing progress monitoring of students per the TEA. There have not been any specifics outlined about numbers of minutes per subject per grade level for online learning, as many have asked. The TEA has put together a document here of grading and assessment suggestions. These are not hard and fast rules from the TEA that we must follow, simply things to think about as your revise your grading policy. Continue to look to your accreditation commission for guidance and look at the private school resources at the bottom of the TPSA webpage for information from the experts.
Here are TEA guidelines for adjustments upon reopening: https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/posting_operational_measures_guidance_v2_t.pdf
New Federal Regulations and Relief Programs:
There have been three phases of federal legislation designed to deal with the coronavirus:
Phase 1 did not include anything relevant to private schools
Phase 2 included mandated emergency paid sick leave and emergency family leave, which are reimbursed through a payroll tax credit.
Phase 3 included $13.5 billion relief for schools provided by equitable services, a forgivable loan program administered through the Small Business Administration, and expanded access to unemployment insurance.
All of these pieces passed quickly into law, and interpretation is changing by the minute. We are giving guidance based on what we know so far, but stay tuned because it may change. The most recent changes are noted below:
Small Business Administration Loans:
Also called the Paycheck Protection Program, 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. There have been delays reported in getting into the website to apply, but other than capacity issues, it is a pretty simple process. 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.
You may decline to take the loan after you are approved, and the funds may run out if you wait too long. The main question is whether taking this loan would designate your school as the recipient of federal funds, and, if so, for how long. We are seeking this clarification in DC.
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.
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.
The Education Stabilization Fund is the $13.5 billion dollars going to local school districts. Private schools should get a proportionate share of this money through equitable services. You do NOT need to have participated in these programs before. Please contact the person in your local school district who is in charge of federal funds so that he or she knows how to find you to consult about these funds. If you are not sure who this person is, another private school located in your local school district may have that information. This money may be distributed quickly to states and districts, so please make sure you are on the local school district’s radar while we are working at the state level to make sure that the process is fair for private schools.
Some schools have shut down this function completely, some are conducting business as usual with creative twists such as online galas, and some are in the middle, doing only personal outreach to key donors. The suggestion is to focus now on unrestricted donations. Also, part of the CARES act includes a $300 above the line deduction for 2020. This may help incentivize some donations in this difficult time.
Resources from TEA
Yesterday, some guidance was released that related to the low-tech distance learning solutions like packet delivery to students. That may be found here. The resources that the TEA is offering to school districts for online learning may be found here.
While we in private schools are all flying a little blind here in this new reality of online learning, there will be new guidance and resources available soon that we will share.
Personal Protection Equipment to Donate
If your closed campus has stocks of No. 95 masks, hand sanitizer, bleach, and other items that are much needed and in short supply, consider donating them to your local hospital, fire station, or other first responders who would gladly take them.
Public Health Campaign
The TEA, the Department of State Health Services, and the Governor’s office would like your help in getting basic health information out to your students and families. An overview of this campaign may be found here. It is the hope that a coordinated campaign by every school in Texas, both public and private, will help slow the spread of this disease.
A general informational poster is found here in English and here in Spanish. A letter to parents is here, and a staff letter is here. These are in word format, so feel free to edit to your liking. You are not required to do this.
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.
One of the questions to consider now that we are in the new digital learning reality was ways to keep children safe online. Praesidium has specific resources about this here.
Most of your legal questions asked and answered here, by Fisher Phillips. This was updated on Friday the 20th.
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