COVID-19 and School Closure FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

**Please note we are currently updating the FAQ to reflect the March 25 state board of education decisions.** If you have a question not answered here, please call our office or submit your question here.

FEDERAL FUNDING/CARES ACT

On April 7, the state Education Department received preliminary approval for waivers related to current-year Title I funding. The flexibilities include:
  • Waives 15% carryover limit for Title I, Part A.
  • Extends the time limit for spending federal funds. School districts have until September 30, 2021, to spend FY2018 federal funds. This waiver includes Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, Title V, Part B programs, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth program.
  • Waives the federal definition of professional development. This change will allow districts to use federal funding for a broader range of professional development that meets your teachers needs in this unique time.
  • Waives the following Title IV, Part A provisions:
    • annual needs assessment,
    • content area spending requirements, and
    • technology spending limits.
The most important flexibility districts will have with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus funding, which includes more than $160 million allocated directly to Oklahoma schools based on the Title I formula. Districts will be able to spend the stimulus money to maintain operations, services and current staffing levels. Most education dollars are spent on people -- educators directly serving students and support staff who are helping in classrooms, interacting with families and ensuring our children are fed and safely transported to and from school. A major focus of federal stimulus funding so far has been to help workers keep working. The bottom line for schools is that your district can use the CARES stimulus money to help keep your employees at work, which is necessary to stabilize class sizes and educational opportunities. Districts can calculate their stimulus revenue at approximately equal to 83% of this year’s Title I, Part A allocation.
CARES stimulus funds allowable expenses
  • Maintain operation, services and staffing levels;
  • Coordinate preparation, prevention and response efforts related to the coronavirus with state, local and tribal health officials;
  • Equip principals and school leaders with resources to address school-based needs;
  • Deliver services to at-risk and minority students;
  • Develop and implement procedures to improve school preparedness and response efforts;
  • Train and offer professional development to staff on sanitizing and minimizing the spread of disease;
  • Buy cleaning supplies;
  • Plan/coordinate long-term closures, including meal provisions, technology for online learning and guidance for special education services;
  • Buy educational technology (including hardware, software and connectivity) for online learning for students. This may include assistive technology or adaptive equipment for students with disabilities;
  • Provide mental health services and supports;  and
  • Prepare and offer summer learning activities, including summer after-school programs and continuing services to at-risk and minority students.
President Trump signed the CARES Act on March 27. According to the law, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has 30 days after the CARES Act was signed to officially invite states to apply for the aid. She must approve or deny those applications within 30 days of receiving them.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus funding includes more than $160 million allocated directly to Oklahoma schools. Congress decided to base funding on the Title I formula. Districts can calculate their stimulus revenue at approximately equal to 83% of this year’s Title I, Part A allocation.

SCHOOL OPERATIONS

The closing of school buildings, school facilities and in-person instruction and extracurricular activities is closure is mandated until April 6, 2020. Remote learning will resume April 6.
Please note this answer has been updated. Yes. The state Education Department is requiring districts with a last day of instruction prior to May 8 to delay its last day of school in exchange for the waivers the state Board of Education approved on March 25. If your district had an end date after May 15, you may want to consider modifying the calendar. The state education department has indicated districts will not need to submit calendar changes to SDE. Changing the last day of instruction will require local board action unless previous passed a resolution delegating that authority to the superintendent.
No. On March 25, the state Board of Education waived all minimum instructional time (days/hours) mandates.
The state board required schools to cease all instructional activities, including extracurricular activities, until April 6. On March 25, the board revised the order so schools could begin planning for remote instruction but asked schools to adhere to CDC guidance and the governor's executive order by ensuring staff meetings are virtual. Schools may continue essential clerical and administrative activities such as business management, nutrition services and maintenance.
No. With the move to remote learning, the state Board of Education waived the requirement for a minimum 6-hour school day.
Immediately. On March 25, the board amended its earlier order that prohibited professional development activities until April 6. School districts need teachers to begin planning (virtually, if at all possible) on the continuous learning plan for the remainder of the school year.
On March 25, the state Board of Education waived funding restrictions on textbook allocations. Textbook money can now be spent on any needs not related to facility maintenance.
Because of the public health emergency and the move to remote learning, the state Board of Education OK’d calculating both average daily attendance and average daily membership from the first day of school through March 12.
RSA funds can be used for technology, professional development and to convene student proficiency reading teams.
No. The state board of Education waived this requirement to shift from a focus on compliance to support. However, it retains the right to modify the waiver if it deems necessary.
The state Board of Education waived minimum time requirements as well cooperative agreements.
Districts must continue to enroll new students. However, please establish a process that respects CDC health and safety guidance. Your district may use an online enrollment system, use an appointment process or some other option. It is recommended that your process be listed on your school district’s website.
Yes. The school district has three business days to transfer records to the other school district.

CHILD NUTRITION

Yes. As of April 6, your district should continue providing meals according to the summer feeding rules you have used since the school closure began. Your meal program should continue through the remainder of the school year and throughout the summer.

• Distribution method: Schools may determine the best method by which to distribute the meals, however, methods that require as little person-to-person contact as possible are encouraged (e.g., drive-through method).

• Financing: At this time, only districts that participate in the summer feeding program may provide this service. For these schools, the meals will be provided free of charge for anyone 0-18 years of age.

Yes. The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) applied for the waiver March 11 and March 25 to remove the requirement that school feeding sites be located in high-need areas under the Emergency School Closure provisions of the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Prior to the waiver, districts could provide free meals only if 50% of students at a school met eligibility for the free and reduced-price lunch program.

EMPLOYEE ISSUES

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been signed by the President and goes into effect April 1. Please click here to read about changes to the Family Medical Leave Act and additions to paid sick leave.
On April 2, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order ensuring school boards have the legal authority to pay support employees while buildings are closed.  School districts may require essential employees – such as custodians, food service workers and business staff – to report to work during the school closure. Also, if your district’s payroll for 10-month employees is annualized, districts can continue to pay support employees during a short-term closure for the compensation they have already accrued but have not yet received. Other possible options are: 

For districts that negotiate with  a support employee bargaining unit: 

• Your district can negotiate a one-time Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) providing additional leave (e.g, sick, emergency or special business) specifically for the COVID-19 school closures. The MOU can specify a defined time period for the availability of this leave.  Although an MOU requires board approval it may be applied retroactively, if necessary.  See here for a template MOU.

For districts that DO NOT negotiate with  a support employee bargaining unit: 

• You may call a special board meeting and propose a revised leave policy that provides additional leave (e.g., sick, emergency or personal business) for support employees, specifically for the COVID-19 school closures. Your district may designate a specific time period for the availability of this leave.  Although a policy change requires board approval, it may be applied retroactively, if necessary. We have sample policies here.

Yes. Oklahoma law contains a provision regarding pay for administrators and teachers applicable during an epidemic. Click here to view the statute. Here is the applicable language, which can be found in section H:

Teachers and administrators shall be entitled to pay for any time lost when school is closed on account of epidemics or otherwise when an order for such closing has been issued by a health officer authorized by law to issue the order.

The OSSBA legal team is in agreement with the state Education Department and other education attorneys that this language applies to the current situation. Districts can rely on this statute to pay certified employees for any contract days lost because of the COVID-19 emergency. Don't require teachers and other certified employees to report to work unless they are needed to perform essential duties.
The OSSBA legal team interprets “teachers and administrators” as used within that specific statute broadly. This would include all certified employees including any person who is employed to serve as district superintendent, principal, supervisor, a counselor, librarian, school nurse or classroom teacher or in any other instructional, supervisory or administrative capacity. This would apply regardless of the source of funding for the position and would include, but would not be limited to, teachers paid with federal funds.
This is a local control decision. During the closure, it may be necessary to keep central offices open to continue business operations. The district will need to monitor the mail, process payroll, fulfill open records requests, answer questions from employees, parents, students and other patrons. School offices may need to be staffed to be responsive to community questions so that parents can pick up their children’s medication at home during the closure. Other roles may include:

• Custodial staff to clean the buildings;

• Cafeteria workers to prepare meals for students;

• Bus drivers to deliver food directly to families in order to have the least amount of physical contact between employees and families;

• Maintenance and grounds personnel to care for campuses; and

• Teachers or other employees on a case-by-case basis as determined by the administration.

Some employees may be particularly susceptible to COVID-19, such as those with underlying health conditions, or may be in close contact with a high-risk relative. These issues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but districts are encouraged to be flexible with use of sick and other available leave. Also, some of these cases may include issues covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). School districts are encouraged to contact their retained counsel for advice on specific issues that may be covered by the ADA.
Yes. If an employee has been placed on a plan for improvement and given a certain time to correct their behavior, they must be given the amount of time stated in the plan for improvement. A school closure would not automatically reduce the amount of time provided in the plan for improvement.
We are working with the Teacher Retirement System to find a solution that would allow teachers to be granted a full year of service credit for the current school year.
No. In its March 25 meeting, the state Board of Education waived the TLE requirements.
No. The governor’s executive order extended occupational licensing for the duration of his order plus 14 days.
For new hires, including recent graduates who have been unable to complete testing requirements, a district can request an emergency certification from the state Board of Education.

To rehire an teacher who was been teaching on an emergency certification for two years, the state Board of Education adopted an emergency rule to allow a third year of emergency certification. For next school year, a local board can ask the state Board of Education for permission to hire an emergency certified teacher for a third year. As part of the application for exception:
  • The teacher must have an effective rating on their most recent evaluation.
  • The district must submit portfolio that includes information about the teacher’s progress toward certification.
  • The district must provide evidence the district sought to hire a certified teacher.

TESTING/ACCOUNTABILITY

Per guidance from the state Education Department, districts should not administer end-of-year screenings. Districts should use local assessments through March 16 to determine promotion/retention. Student reading proficiency teams should meet virtually. End-of-year RSA reports are waived.
In concurrence with the Department of Public Safety, the state Board of Education provided a medical exemption for the reading test so students can still apply for a driver’s license/permit.
No. The chronic absenteeism indicator, as well as all aspects of the school report card, will be not be calculated for the current school year.
State-mandated standardized testing will not happen this year. Oklahoma received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education  See the news release here. The state Education Department also waived the U.S. History test requirement, and medical exemptions are being granted for the 8th grade reading test so students applying for a driver's license/permit will not need to provide an 8th grade reading test score.

STUDENT ISSUES

Your district should communicate with your higher education partner about plans for providing instruction to concurrently enrolled students until April 6, and perhaps longer. Some universities and colleges have already announced they will implement online learning within the next few weeks, while others are still waiting to make a decision about coursework. Once you receive information from the college or university serving your students, share it with concurrently enrolled students and their parents.
OCR released a webinar today on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools using online learning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. More information, including links to the webinar and a fact sheet are available by clicking here.
A: While school is closed for all students, there is no requirement to provide an education to any student, including students on individualized education plans.
State-mandated standardized testing will not happen this year. Oklahoma received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education  See the news release here. The state Education Department also waived the U.S. History test requirement, and medical exemptions are being granted for the 8th grade reading test so students applying for a driver's license/permit will not need to provide an 8th grade reading test score.
Districts have authority to determine when a student has met the criteria for graduation. State education officials have wisely encouraged districts to be flexible and not allow the situation to punitively affect students who were otherwise on track to graduate.
The board of education may wish to consider modifying local policy to return to state graduation requirements for this year’s seniors and juniors. This will eliminate some of the extra stress that students may have in meeting curriculum requirements.
No. Student engagement will vary based on your local district’s continuous learning experience. School districts are encouraged to communicate often with students and families to ensure maximum engagement and share expectations.
School districts aren’t required to assign grades for work submitted during the continuous learning experience. Expectations should be communicated to students and families.

For the second semester, the method of assigning final grades should be determined by each school district and then communicated to students and families.
No. State law contains an exemption to the CPR requirement for virtual charter schools. Since school districts are providing remote instruction for students, state education officials believe this exemption can be extended to 2020 seniors who haven't met the requirement. Whether a senior has completed or been exempted from the requirement must be noted on the student's transcript.

GOVERNANCE

The board most likely has already delegated day-to-day decisions to the superintendent via the powers and duties of superintendents (OSSBA policy BJ).  The only decisions that cannot be delegated to the superintendent are those that are specifically required via law to be done by the board of education. You board can use this resolution to reinforce granting the superintendent emergency powers.
Yes. There are some responsibilities the board simply can't delegate. These include (but are not limited to) hiring employees, hiring contractors to perform services for the school district, encumbering funds not already authorized for expenditure and the approval of open transfers.
The administration may modify policy, subject to formal approval of the board at a future meeting.  These changes are often referred to as retroactive policy changes.   
Maybe. State law was changed to allow more flexibility for board members to participate in a meeting via teleconference or videoconference, although boards can continue to meet in person. (OSSBA has an online, paperless meeting service that can help school districts and other public bodies streamline meetings, reduce paper, reduce person-to-person contact and enable boards to take full advantage of the proposed flexibility. Click here to learn more about Assemble Meetings.).
No. Most districts have completed audits, which still must be submitted to the state Auditor and Inspector’s Office and the state Education Department. However, the district does not need to submit the acknowledgement form to state education officials.

OPEN MEETINGS

No. Regular meetings cannot be conducted via teleconference or videoconference as the meeting notice filed by the Dec. 15 deadline for regular meetings did not include the listing of who would be present via teleconference or videoconference.  Even more important, this law was not in existence at that time. If you plan to meet via teleconference or videoconference, please adopt the following policies during the first such meeting and make them effective retroactively:
  • Provide a special meeting notice to the county clerk’s office that includes:
  • Time, date, place (if a physical meeting will occur) of the meeting
  • Listing of who will be attending via teleconference
  • Listing of who will be attending via videoconference
  • Listing of who will be physically present at the meeting site.
This new law change was effective March 18 and will remain in effect until November 15, 2020, or until the Governor of Oklahoma terminates the state of emergency, whichever date first occurs.
For a completely virtual meeting, a meeting notice to be filed and court stamped with the county clerk would appear as follows (CLICK HERE FOR A TEMPLATE FOR THIS OPTION):
The ____ Board of Education will be conducting a special meeting on the ___ day of _____, 2020, at ____a.m./p.m.

This meeting will be conducted entirely via teleconferencing and videoconferencing.  Those present at remote locations will be:

  • Via Teleconference:  (List names and position)
  • Via Videoconference:  (List names and position)
  • For a meeting that will have both a physical and a virtual presence, the meeting notice that is filed and court stamped with the county clerk would appear as follows (CLICK HERE FOR A TEMPLATE FOR THIS OPTION):
    The ____ Board of Education will be conducting a special meeting on the ___ day of _____, 2020, at ____a.m./p.m.

    This meeting will include teleconferencing and videoconferencing, but there will be parties present at (physical location if some will be at school address or in same location).

    Those present at remote locations will be:

    • Via Teleconference:  (List names and position)
    • Via Videoconference:  (List names and position)
    • Those present at the physical meeting site will be:  (include names and positions).
A board member who was scheduled to attend a meeting via videoconferencing or teleconferencing can change their mind and attend physically.  However, a board member who was included in the notice to the county clerk as being present physically cannot legally decide to attend via teleconference or videoconference.
No.  The entire meeting can be conducted without a physical meeting site.
Yes, the district must post an agenda on the school district’s website. The agenda must comply with the requirements of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. However, the district is not required to make the notice to the public available in the central office of the school district nor at the location of the meeting during normal business hours at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

The agenda will also need to identify who will be present via videoconference, teleconference, or physically present at the meeting site, if one exists.
The board may convene into executive session by teleconference or videoconference for one of the reasons listed in statute for executive session.

  • That listing of topics has not changed and must be worded appropriately on the posted agenda.
  • The agenda must include language that provides that the executive session will include teleconferencing or
  • The agenda must state the identity:
  • Each member appearing remotely
  • The method of each member’s remote appearance
  • The identity of any member that will be physically present at the meeting site, if any, for the executive session.
Yes, the minutes clerk will need to keep the official minutes of the meeting and must record all votes taken via roll call vote. The minutes clerk will not participate in any executive sessions so standard executive session minutes procedures should be followed.
A record of the meeting must be maintained. The district may record meetings via written, electronic, or other means.
If a board’s policy allows public participation at a special meeting, it needs to find a method that would allow participation in some form. This could include submitting written comments via a form or to a specific email address. Please see our updated sample policy here.
If the teleconference or videoconference feed cuts out while the meeting is being conducted, the meeting must immediately cease until the connection is re-established.
Yes. Any documents provided to the board must also be made immediately available to members of the public. This can be accomplished by posting the documents on your district website (or to the public page in Assemble) prior to the start of the meeting. Documents which are provided to your board as part of executive session should not be made available to the public as those documents remain confidential.
Yes. Though the legislature has given public bodies the option to meet virtually, a board may still meet in-person following the usual steps of notice to the county clerk and agenda posting requirements.
No. The Oklahoma Open Meeting Act specifically requires that all public meetings remain open to the public. A board cannot restrict who attends a meeting or the number of attendees, even to comply with the recommendations of a local health official or the CDC. Boards should look to holding their meetings virtually in order to comply.

SCHOOL BOARD AND BOND ELECTIONS

No. If your school district has a school board race scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Secretary of the state Election Board is authorizing the rescheduling of these elections to Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Your district must call a meeting to reschedule your April 7 election because the state Election Board has indicated it is unlikely to have enough poll workers to stage a valid election. To reschedule school board candidate elections, the board of education must call a meeting and:

• Adopt a modified resolution utilizing the document that called the Tuesday, April 7 election.

• Submit the modified resolution to your county election board secretary by Monday, March 30, 2020.

Here is sample agenda language:

Discussion and possible board action to modify resolution calling for 2020 school board member election.

Also, since federal, state, and county primaries will occur, the state Election Board and the county pay all costs of Precinct Official compensation. All districts will pay for on June 30 elections is ballots and any other costs incurred specifically by each district. They also will receive a post-election statement of their costs after the June election, just as they do for all elections. A rescheduled election involving a school board race shall remain exactly the same as candidates appeared on the ballot for the April 7, 2020, election.
No. If your school district has a school bond issue scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Secretary of the state Election Board is authorizing the rescheduling of these elections to Tuesday, June 30, 2020, Aug. 25 or Nov. 3.  Your district must reschedule your April 7 bond election because the state Election Board has indicated it is unlikely to have enough poll workers to stage a valid election.    If you called a special election for a school bond project, the board of education must hold a board meeting and adopt a modified resolution utilizing the document that called the Tuesday, April 7 election. The board will need to: 

• Contact your financial advisor.

• Review the modified resolution prepared by your district's financial advisors, which must include language to rescind the Tuesday April 7 election; and 

• Vote at a meeting to reschedule that election to any election date allowed by 26 O.S. Section 3-101.   

• Submit the modified resolution to your county election board secretary by Monday, March 30, 2020.   

Here is sample agenda language:

Discussion and possible board action to modify resolution calling for 2020 school bond issue election.

Also, since federal, state, and county primaries will occur, the state Election Board and the county pay all costs of Precinct Official compensation. All districts will pay for on June 30 elections is ballots and any other costs incurred specifically by each district.  They also will receive a post-election statement of their costs after the June election, just as they do for all elections. A rescheduled election involving a bond issue shall remain exactly the same as the question that was to appear on the ballot for the April 7, 2020, election. 
 The new (or returning) board member won’t be seated until the June 30 election results have been certified. This means the board member currently holding that seat will continue to serve.  

MISCELLANEOUS

If a positive case is confirmed in your district, please report it immediately to county health officials and follow their medical advice. Remember, communication and up-to-date information is an important tool for helping others in your school community to protect themselves. Due to student and employee privacy issues, communicating about a positive case can be a difficult situation to navigate. Please call OSSBA for guidance if this situation occurs to discuss the specific circumstances. We are available to assist you. We also have a draft communication template here. We also have a draft communication to share about an employee or student exposure to COVID-19.
Timely and effective communication with parents, students, employees and community members is critically important, especially during times of uncertainty. Let all stakeholders know your schools will be not be offering instructional or extracurricular services until April 6, and share with them your plans to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, let parents know the services that will available to them during the school closure, such as child nutrition options or opportunities to pick up school medication. Consider creating a COVID-19 resources page on your website where they can get the latest information from your district, along with sending announcements via text, phone call, social media and/or email. Also, please check out resources on the communications tips page for template letters.

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