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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources for Schools

(Updated August 11, 2020)

The World Health Organization has deemed Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) to be a pandemic. As the situation continues to evolve and change, the WASB is compiling information of greatest pertinence to Wisconsin school districts.

WASB Legal Update Recorded Webinars
July 28 Webinar on Reopening Schools: Perspectives from WASB Insurance Plan Members (Part 2)

The webinar — held by the WASB and representatives from WASB Insurance Plan endorsed agencies USI Insurance (formerly Associated Benefits and Risk Consulting), M3 Insurance Solutions, Inc. and TRICOR Inc. — covered COVID-19 testing and symptom tracking in the workplace; COVID-related absences, employee rights and health insurance eligibility; and COVID-19’s impact on short-term and long-term disability insurance eligibility and benefits.

[https://youtu.be/SnhoPz7R-QQ]

July 22 Webinar on Reopening Schools: Perspectives from WASB Insurance Plan Members (Part 1)

This webinar — held by the WASB and representatives from WASB Insurance Plan endorsed agencies Gallagher, M3 Insurance Solutions, Inc. and TRICOR Inc. — covered liability issues around access to school facilities, school transportation, food service and other issues.

[https://youtu.be/cGG6De1lBX0]


June 10 Webinar on Responding to COVID-19: Safely Returning to Work

[https://youtu.be/UHdpLTDBWro]


Friday, April 24 Video Update

In this webinar, WASB attorneys Bob Butler and Ben Richter answer commonly asked questions asked by new members and the boards welcoming them.

[https://youtu.be/ZYft09Y22xA]


Monday, April 20 Video Update

In this webinar, WASB attorneys discuss board organizational meetings, officer roles and orienting new members.

[https://youtu.be/BkGzOEZNNR4]


Friday, April 17 Video Update

[https://youtu.be/fCHE3sTQ7rI]

In this webinar, WASB Government Relations staff and a WASB attorney discuss provisions of the COVID-19 pandemic state legislation (2019 Wisconsin Act 185) related to school districts.

The WASB New Laws bulletin summarizing 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 (as mentioned in the webinar; last revised on 4/21/20) is also now available.  The bulletin was revised after initial publication to include an additional clarification regarding employee access to personnel records and to include an additional section that addresses new authority of state agencies and local governments to waive certain deadlines and training requirements during the public health emergency.


Thursday, April 9 Video Update

Note: The recording from the April 9 webinar has been delayed. It will be posted when it is available.


Thursday, April 2 Video Update

[https://youtu.be/qdUj4Aowaso]

In this webinar, WASB attorneys discuss holding virtual meetings


Wednesday, April 1 Video Update

[https://youtu.be/oxWvm6t0QY0]

In this webinar, WASB attorneys discuss the employer-provided leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.


Thursday, March 26 Video Update

[https://youtu.be/ltctpuyX5ak]

Clips by Topic from March 26 Update:


Friday, March 20 Video Update

Clips by Topic from March 20 Update:

Considerations for Reopening Schools and Child/Youth Programs
  • On June 22, the DPI released Education Forward, a guidance document for district and school leaders to use as they plan for a safe, efficient and equitable return to school for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance document references the use of a Returning to School Committee and a Pandemic Response Committee when making local decisions about the safe return to school. School boards and administrators should consider, and review with the district’s legal counsel, the potential applicability of the Open Meetings Law to the meetings of such committees and subcommittees.

    *STATE ORDER REQUIRING THE WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS – On 7/30/20, Gov. Evers issued an emergency order (Emergency Order # 1) that requires all individuals in Wisconsin who are five years of age and older to wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended if outdoors when maintaining physical distancing is not possible. The order also enumerates exceptions to the requirement, listing activities such as when an individual is eating, drinking or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face covering safely are also exempt from the requirement. The emergency order is in effect from August 1 until September 28, 2020, or by a subsequent superseding order. Refer to a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document for additional information on the implementation of this face covering emergency order.

  • New Forward Analytics COVID-19 Data Tool (This tool is designed to help inform local officials and assist the public understand COVID-19 in their community. The data can be broken down to the individual county level, including a time lapse map showing the spread of the virus. The data also includes statewide trends in total cases, active cases, and deaths.)
  • Starting School Prior to September 1 –  State law generally prohibits public schools from starting the school term until September 1 each year. However, section 118.045(3) of the state statutes and PI 27.03 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code allow a school board to start the school term before September 1 if the school board submits a written request to the DPI. Normally such a request has to be submitted to the DPI by January 1 prior to the beginning of the school term but school boards are able to submit the written request after the January 1 deadline if an extraordinary event occurs.
    • The written request to DPI must be adopted as a written resolution by the school board at a school board meeting that complies with the Open Meetings Law. The request and resolution must include all of the following: (1) the reasons and any other relevant facts relating to the request for an earlier school start date, and (2) when an extraordinary event took place or a chronology of events leading to the request.
    • The written request and resolution should be sent to the DPI at the earliest possible time prior to the beginning of the school term. The DPI has already approved a number of school start date exemption requests from Wisconsin school districts for the 2020-21 school year, including requests related to the COVID-19 pandemic. School start date exemptions are effective for one year.
  • Child-Care Settings. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and the Department of Health Services continue to provide guidance that relates to licensed child-care providers and to schools that operate child-care programs separate from the school day. For example, the DCF has created resources that can be shared with parents and family members to help answer their questions and guide them when making child-care decisions during the public health emergency. These information resources include:
    • The Best Practices for Child-Care Providers overview highlights considerations and recommendations during each phase of the transition. As always, the health and safety of children is the most important priority.
    • The Best Practices for Child-Care Providers frequently asked questions provides specific recommendations during each phase of the transition.
    • The Reopening Child-Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic decision tree assists child-care programs in making decisions about reopening during the Badger Bounce Back transition.
    • A Navigating Child-Care During a Public Health Emergency Resource – a two-page Flyer or a 11 x 17 Poster
      According to the DCF, all child-care providers that were temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic must contact their licensing specialist/certifier prior to reopening. Modifying the status in the Provider Portal does not notify the licensing specialist. Anytime a change in status occurs, the licensing specialist/certifier must be contacted, and the Provider Portal updated.
  • Afterschool Programs – Wisconsin afterschool program providers are seeking to partner with schools in helping to meet students’ needs and support student success when schools reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Refer to the following resources created by the Wisconsin Afterschool Network for information on how afterschool programs can help schools:
  • Virtual Seminar:Adapting, Evolving & Thriving: Tools to Evolve Your COVID-19 School Strategy (This 6/5/20 seminar was put on by the CDC Foundation, in cooperation with the NSBA, AASA, NASBE and the Leavitt Partners, and is intended to: (1) provide insights into existing resources and tools, and (2) share a risk analysis framework school leaders can use to inform their operational decisions.)
Statewide Executive and Other Emergency Orders
  • On 7/30/20, Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order (Executive Order #82) proclaiming that a public health emergency, as defined by section 323.02(16) of the state statutes, exists in the State of Wisconsin. This public health emergency shall remain in effect 60 days, or until it is revoked by the Governor or by a joint resolution of the Wisconsin State Legislature. In the order, the Governor (1) designated the Department of Health Services as the lead agency to respond to the public health emergency and directed the DHS to take all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent and respond to COVID-19; (2) authorized the Adjutant General to activate the Wisconsin National Guard as necessary and appropriate to assist in the State’s response to the public health emergency, including providing personnel to support the August 11 primary election and personnel to operate community testing sites throughout Wisconsin; and, (3) directed all state agencies (which includes the Department of Public Instruction) to assist as appropriate in the State’s ongoing response to the public health emergency.
  • On 7/30/20, Gov. Evers issued an emergency order (Emergency Order # 1) that requires all individuals in Wisconsin who are five years of age and older to wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended if outdoors when maintaining physical distancing is not possible. The order also enumerates exceptions to the requirement, listing activities such as when an individual is eating, drinking, or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face covering safely are also exempt from the requirement. The emergency order is in effect from August 1, 2020 until September 28, 2020, or by a subsequent superseding order. Refer to a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document for additional information on the implementation of this face covering emergency order.
  • Apart from the state-wide order regarding face coverings and any additional state-wide rules or orders that may be issued, the nature and scope of pandemic-related orders and restrictions (apart from the state-wide school closure provision) can vary by county and by municipality based on actions taken by local public health departments and other governmental authorities.
  • In an emergency order issued on April 20, Gov. Evers announced the Badger Bounce Back plan that outlines the steps Wisconsin needs to take to decrease COVID-19 cases and deaths and increase capacity in Wisconsin’s healthcare system so that a phased reopening of businesses (including schools) is possible and people can get back to work. The plan was established to help the state reach the White House’s recommended guidelines for reopening the state.
Everyday Preventive Actions

Public health officials recommend individuals take Everyday Preventive Actions to help stop the spread of germs and prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. The CDC offers several free handwashing resources that include health promotion materials, information on proper handwashing technique and tips for families to help children develop good handwashing habits.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Put distance between yourself and others (6 feet or more). Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus. Do not gather in groups, stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • If you are in a private setting and do not have a cloth face covering on, remember to always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is encouraging school districts to consult with their local or county public health department regarding the cleaning of schools in preparation for the summer and the eventual reopening of schools. On May 14, the CDC issued Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Schools and Other Workplaces and Businesses.

*STATE ORDER REQUIRING THE WEARING OF FACE COVERINGS – On 7/30/20, Gov. Evers issued an emergency order (Emergency Order # 1) that requires all individuals in Wisconsin who are five years of age and older to wear a face covering when they are indoors or in an enclosed space with anyone outside their household living unit. Face coverings are strongly recommended if outdoors when maintaining physical distancing is not possible. The order also enumerates exceptions to the requirement, listing activities such as when an individual is eating, drinking or swimming. Individuals with health conditions or disabilities that would preclude the wearing of a face covering safely are also exempt from the requirement. The emergency order is in effect from August 1 until September 28, 2020, or by a subsequent superseding order. Refer to a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document for additional information on the implementation of this face covering emergency order.

Related School District Policies/Procedures/Plans

School officials can help control the spread of respiratory viruses and other communicable diseases by making employees, students and parents aware of Related School District Policies, Procedures and Plans and making sure that they are followed.

  • Refer to the April 2020 Policy Perspectives for information on the suspension/waiver of board policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and deadline date changes for the 2020-21 full-time open enrollment application period.
  • Policies Addressing Employee Compensation During Extraordinary Circumstances – Districts paying staff compensation with federal grant funds or certain state categorical aid during the COVID-19 pandemic will need to incorporate language into their written district policies and procedures related to employee compensation during unexpected or extraordinary circumstances. According to the DPI, the cost is not an allowable cost unless it is consistent with the district’s policies and procedures for paying compensation from all funding sources, federal and non-federal, under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances. The DPI has drafted sample policy language to expedite the incorporation of such information into a district’s official policy. Subscribers to WASB’s Policy Resource Guide should look for this sample policy in the online PRG under the policy code 671.5.
  • School Wellness Policies – Federal regulations require school districts participating in federally subsidized school meal programs (i.e., the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program) to assess compliance with local school wellness policies at least once every three years. The first triennial assessment was required to be completed by June 30, 2020. However, the USDA recently issued a Nationwide Waiver of Local School Wellness Policy Triennial Assessments in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to support districts unable to complete a triennial assessment of local school wellness policies by that date due to school closures as a result of COVID-19. The new first triennial assessment deadline is June 30, 2021, for those districts opting to use this waiver, with the second triennial assessment deadline due by June 30, 2024. Wisconsin school districts opting to use this waiver must notify the DPI of their intention to utilize the waiver by completing the Local School Wellness Policy Triennial Assessment Waiver Notification Form found on the DPI’s website by June 30, 2020.
    • While this waiver option is available, some districts may have already completed their first triennial school wellness policy assessment and may not be due to conduct one in 2020. The DPI also encourages school districts to complete the triennial assessment of their school wellness policies by June 30, 2020 if they are able. The DPI has developed the Wisconsin Local Wellness Policy Report Card for districts to use to complete triennial wellness policy assessments.
Continuity of Learning – General Information

School districts need to plan how they will provide students with options to continue learning during the period of school closure due to the coronavirus.

  • Refer to the May 2020 issue of WASB’s policy publication The FOCUS entitled “Providing Virtual Instruction: Some Special Considerations to Keep in Mind”  (requires log-in and is accessible only to FOCUS subscriber districts) The issue addresses a few of the special legal and other considerations and challenges that exist when school districts utilize a system of virtual instruction. Specifically, the issue addresses: (1) equity and access, (2) students with disabilities, (3) student privacy, (4) cybersecurity, and (5) copyright considerations for staff as they transition from face-to-face classroom lessons to virtual instruction.
  • Refer to the May 2020 Wisconsin Public Forum report addressing Wisconsin’s Digital Divide and its Impacts on Learning. This May 2020 report is intended to (1) broaden understanding of the number and characteristics of students in Wisconsin who lack reliable home internet access and (2) look at strategies implemented both in Wisconsin and elsewhere to help these students.
  • Council of Chief State School Officers Resources – Refer to CCSSO recommendations for remote learning. These recommendations have been vetted for quality and provide free high-quality instructional materials aligned to different types of remote learning from printed packets to virtual instruction. The CCSSO runs the High-Quality Instructional Materials and Professional Development Network that currently supports eight states, including Wisconsin.
  • Summer 2020 Online Instruction – On May 5, an emergency rule revision to PI 17 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code was published dealing with summer and interim sessions receiving state aid. The emergency rule, which will be in place for the summer of 2020, expands the ability to use online instruction for summer school and count instruction minutes for membership. This change was made to ensure districts have the flexibility they may need to address the uncertainties posed by COVID-19. According to the DPI, the emergency rule does not change the types of classes that can be offered through summer school, but rather allows districts to offer those classes in an online format for all grades K-12, expanding the online option that is currently limited to credit-bearing courses in grades 7-12.
    • On May 12, the DPI School Finance Team issued new guidance on “Counting Minutes of Online Instruction for Summer 2020 Under PI 17 and Emergency Rule 2003”. For the summer of 2020, school districts can offer blended or fully online summer school classes for all grades K-12 and have the instructional minutes be counted for student membership. Any such online summer school class must be: (1) offered by the school district; (2) offered to resident students or nonresident students attending under open enrollment; and (3) taught by a teacher licensed by the DPI, a teacher licensed by the state from which the online course is offered, or a faculty member of an institution of higher education who is authorized to teach high school. As with in-person summer school classes, online summer classes must be offered for academic purposes, which are “learning experiences that are related or similar to instruction that is offered during the rest of the school year or for which credit toward graduation is given.” According to the DPI, there is no actual distinction for “remedial” or “enrichment” classes – content that meets the definition of academic purposes for in-person summer school will also meet that definition for online summer school. Refer to the guidance document for further information.
  • Student Record Information and Privacy – Refer to U.S. Department of Education’s Student Privacy Policy Office FERPA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources, which include FAQ’s and information related to virtual learning. Refer to the recording of the Student Privacy Policy Office’s March 30 webinar entitled “FERPA & Virtual Learning During COVID-19” which, among other things, addresses commonly asked questions related to the challenges of complying with student privacy laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) during this time and presents a series of scenarios which highlight privacy best practices and considerations when adopting distance learning approaches.
  • Cybersecurity Recommendations for Students and Staff – Refer to recommendations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s School Safety Team for using video conferencing tools and online platforms.
  • Student Assessment Information – The DPI received approval from the U.S. Department of Education on March 23 to implement waivers for the federal assessment and accountability requirements in Section 1111 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. All federal assessment and accountability requirements are waived for the state and all Wisconsin school districts immediately for the 2019-20 school year. State law requirements to administer third-grade reading tests and state-required tests for grades four, eight, nine, 10 and 11 were also waived for the 2019-20 school year in 2019 Wisconsin Act 185, which goes into effect on April 17. According to Act 185, student performance on statewide assessments in the 2019-20 school year may not be considered in the evaluation of a teacher or principal under the statewide Educator Effectiveness System. Normally under current state law, teacher and principal evaluations must be based in part upon measures of student performance, including performance on state assessments. Refer to the DPI’s website for additional information regarding COVID-19 Related Assessment Updates.
  • Wisconsin School Library Information – Refer to DPI’s COVID-19 information relevant to Wisconsin school libraries for information and resources related to such topics as student access to school library resources, cybersecurity and data privacy, copyright, Common School Fund Expenditures, circulation of library books and materials, and collaboration with public libraries.
    • State law provides that money generated by the Common School Fund be used for the purchase of library books and other instructional materials for school libraries and for the purchase of instructional materials from the State Historical Society for use in teaching Wisconsin history. However, in addition, a school district may use Common School Funds to purchase school library computers and related software if the school board consults with the person who supervises the school district’s libraries and the computers and software are housed in the school library. The DPI is encouraging school library media specialists to allocate Common School funds to allowable online resources, such as eBooks, audiobooks and research databases. The DPI has advised that if districts are unable to spend their 2019-20 Common School Fund allocation in full, the unspent portion should be coded as restricted fund balance (10 B 936130) and spent in 2020-21. These changes should be noted in the district’s long-range library plan.
Continuity of Learning – Equity and Access

It is important for school districts to keep in mind equity and access issues when planning and providing for continuity of learning during this time of the pandemic. According to the DPI, making purposeful decisions about how to leverage resources to support learning will help learners and caregivers participate in remote learning opportunities. In considering equity and access in a remote learning environment, DPI suggests that districts consider the following questions: (1) Are there flexible schedules, goals and structures for learning?; (2) Are there co-constructed learning experiences?; and (3) Are everyday learning experiences reflected? Additional information on equity and access may be found in DPI’s Considerations for Teaching and Learning during COVID-19,” which were issued on March 31.

Students with Disabilities

  • U.S. Department of Education’s “Questions and Answers for Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak”
    • On 7/6/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued a Q & A document to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part C evaluation and assessment timelines in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 6/22/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued Q & A documents to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B and Part C dispute resolution procedures in the current COVID-19 environment.
    • On 6/30/20, the U.S. DOE’S Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued Q & A documents to assist school districts in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B and Part C procedural safeguards in the current COVID-19 environment.
  • May 2020 WASB Legal Comment entitled “Compensatory Education Services for Students with Disabilities: The Continuing Consequences of COVID-19” (member log in required).

English Learners

Homeless Children and Youth

Continuity of Learning – State Law Waivers and Flexibility

The DPI has authority under section 118.38 of state statutes to grant waivers to school districts from many of the requirements found in Chapters 115 to 121 of the state statutes and in DPI’s administrative rules.

  • On August 7, the DPI issued a Regulatory Flexibility Framework for the 2020-21 school year. The framework consists of two parts: a COVID-19 flexibility application form and a series of policy provisions on key topics to address districts’ flexibility needs. The COVID-19 flexibility application provides a process for requesting multiple waivers from statutory and administrative rule requirements for the 2020-21 school year all at once in a simplified manner. The DPI has basically identified all the requirements it believes are waivable and incorporated them into the application form. It can be used at any time in the school year and is set up as a rolling application. Thus, if a district needs additional flexibility in the future, but already has an approved application, it will be able to submit an updated application requesting additional flexibility. Completing an application does not preclude a district from requesting waivers outside of the application process.
    • Districts can apply for flexibility on behalf of one, more than one, or all schools within their jurisdictional boundaries.
    • All applicants will need to detail how their proposal aligns to their district’s strategic response to COVID-19 to enhance educational opportunities for students.
    • Districts should read the instructions carefully and follow the directions to speed the processing of their application requests.
  • Prior to requesting any state law waivers, school boards are reminded that they must first hold a public hearing, as per section 118.38(1)(b) of the state statutes. According to DPI guidance, such public hearings may be conducted virtually or by teleconference. The DPI also reminds districts to remain attentive to Open Meetings Law concerns, as further covered in guidance issued by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (see DOJ’s March 16 advisory and a related supplement issued on March 20).
  • School districts granted waivers to some state law requirements under section 118.38 of state statutes due to COVID-19 (e.g., instructional hour waivers and others outlined below) for the 2019-20 school year are reminded that those waivers were for “one year only,” according to the DPI. Due to statutory language in section 118.38 that states that waivers granted under that section are effective for four years, some districts may have assumed that an approved waiver would carry over to 2020-21, if needed. If a district determines that it needs any waivers of the applicable requirements for the 2020-21 school year, the district should pursue such waivers through separate requests and approvals as outlined above.
  • School Start Date Exemptions/Waivers –  State law generally prohibits public schools from starting the school term until September 1 each year. However, section 118.045(3) of the state statutes and PI 27.03 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code allow a school board to start the school term before September 1 if the school board submits a written request to the DPI. Normally such a request has to be submitted to the DPI by January 1 prior to the beginning of the school term but school boards are able to submit the written request after the January 1 deadline if an extraordinary event occurs.
    • The written request to DPI must be adopted as a written resolution by the school board at a school board meeting that complies with the Open Meetings Law. The request and resolution must include all of the following: (1) the reasons and any other relevant facts relating to the request for an earlier school start date, and (2) when an extraordinary event took place or a chronology of events leading to the request.
    • The written request and resolution should be sent to the DPI at the earliest possible time prior to the beginning of the school term. The DPI has already approved a number of school start date exemption requests from Wisconsin school districts for the 2020-21 school year, including requests related to the COVID-19 pandemic. School start date exemptions are effective for one year.
  •  
School Board Reporting Requirement

School boards are reminded that they are required by 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 (see also the WASB New Laws bulletin summarizing Act 185) to submit a report to the DPI by November 1 on virtual instruction and other school operations during the time that schools were closed during the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This report must include all of the following information:

  • Whether or not virtual instruction was implemented in the school district during the public health emergency and, if implemented, in which grades it was implemented.
  • If virtual instruction was implemented in the school district during the public health emergency, the process for implementing the virtual instruction.
  • For each grade level, the average percentage of the 2019−20 school year curriculum provided to students, including curriculum provided in−person and virtually.
  • Whether anything was provided to students during the 2020 summer to help students learn content that students missed because of the public health emergency and, if so, what was provided to students.
  • Recommendations for best practices for transitioning to and providing virtual instruction when schools are closed.
  • Any challenges or barriers the school board faced related to implementing virtual instruction during the public health emergency.
  • By position type, the number of staff members who were laid off during the public health emergency.
  • The number of lunches the school board provided during the public health emergency.
  • The total amount by which the school board reduced expenditures during, or because of, the public health emergency in each of the following categories: (a) utilities; (b) transportation; (c) food service; (d) personnel (This category includes expenditure reductions that result from layoffs.); and (e) contract terminations.

The DPI has developed a survey for school district staff to use to fulfill the mandatory reporting requirements outlined above. The survey questions can be previewed as a PDF or as a Word document. School districts are encouraged to preview the questions in the survey instrument prior to opening the survey for completion, so as to facilitate collection of the required information from district staff who have access to the data requested in the survey. Additional information regarding the completion of the survey and the reporting requirements can be found on DPI’s website. According to the DPI, survey responses must be submitted into the survey web page. Please do not send survey responses directly to the DPI.

The DPI will be using the information from the school district reports to produce the required state report to the state Legislature by January 1, 2021.

For purposes of the above-required school board report, “virtual instruction” means instruction provided through means of the Internet if the students participating in and instructional staff providing the instruction are geographically remote from each other. “Public health emergency” means the period during the 2019-20 school year when schools were closed by the Department of Health Services, under section 252.02 (3) of the state statutes. The specific time frame was from March 12 through June 30, 2020.

Mental Health Support and Student Services
  • Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Coronavirus Resources, which include social and emotional learning resources for educators, parents and caregivers. CASEL has created a new CASEL Cares Initiative Webinar Series that is intended to help everyone – children, teachers, parents and other adults alike – attend to the social and emotional needs that arise during this challenging time dealing with the pandemic and the changes it is making in their lives. The webinars are being recorded and are available to access via CASEL’s website.
    • On 7/9/20, CASEL released a new resource guide entitled Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Roadmap for Reopening School. This guide is intended to support the reopening of schools with a particular focus on equity and SEL. The recommendations are divided into the following four major sections, each with its own action steps and user-friendly tools for school leaders: (1) take time to cultivate and deepen relationships, build partnerships, and plan for SEL; (2) design opportunities where adults can connect, heal, and build their capacity to support students; (3) create safe, supportive and equitable learning environments that promote all students’ social and emotional development; and, (4) use data as an opportunity to share power, deepen relationships, and continuously improve support for students, families and staff.
    • CASEL Cares Webinar: Starting an Unprecedented School Year with SEL to Reunite, Renew, and Thrive (July 31 webinar – This webinar helps school staff utilize the SEL Roadmap for Reopening Schools resource tool referenced above. Panelists’ Recommended Resources List)
  • Gov. Evers announced the launching of the Department of Health Services’ Resilient Wisconsin website on April 3 to provide practical tools and sources of support that can help everyone strengthen their resilience during times of stress so that they can take care of themselves and those around them during COVID-19 and beyond.
  • Resources of the Well Badger Resource Center – This resource center is a Wisconsin-based health information and referral service that is operated through a partnership with the Department of Health Services and helps to connect Wisconsin families and individuals with resources and services like WIC, BadgerCare Plus, and FoodShare. It also provides services and resources for children with special health care needs and children’s mental health.
  • Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting – During the COVID-19 pandemic, children are having fewer interactions with school employees and other professionals trained to observe and mandated to report suspected child abuse. Because of this, the Department of Children and Families believes it is critical now, more than ever, for everyone to be aware of the signs of child abuse and neglect and to know how to report those signs to local welfare agencies. School employees are also reminded of their child abuse and neglect reporting obligations under state law even during this public health emergency. School employees are required to make a report if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child seen in the course of professional duties has been abused or neglected, or if they have reason to believe that a child seen in the course of professional duties has been threatened with abuse or neglect and that abuse or neglect of the child will occur. The intentional failure to report as required may result in a fine, imprisonment or both.
Board Governance/Open Meetings Law
Virtual Meeting Information

State Law Waiver Resolution & Meeting Information

Sample Resolutions for Requesting State Law Waivers – WASB sample resolutions relating to requests for waivers of school district requirements under section 118.38 of the state statutes (such as a waiver of the the minimum hours of direct instructions). A school board may be able to use one of these samples to help organize and document the board’s approval of any waiver requests. Note that DPI offers a simplified online waiver submission process for certain waiver requests.

    • Sample 1 — MS Word versionPDF version (shorter sample with less background detail; last revised 3/26/20)
    • Sample 2 — MS Word version; PDF version (longer sample with more background detail about the public health emergency that is the reason behind the waiver requests; last revised 3/26/20)

Prior to requesting a state law waiver, school boards are reminded that they must first hold a public hearing, as per section 118.38(1)(b) of the state statutes. According to DPI guidance, such public hearings may be conducted virtually or by teleconference. The DPI also reminds districts to remain attentive to Open Meetings Law concerns, as further covered in guidance issued by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (see DOJ’s March 16 advisory and a related supplement issued on March 20).

Employee Compensation and Leave During the Pandemic

WASB attorneys have received a number of questions regarding employee compensation during a school closure for a pandemic. The following is provided as general information and is not offered as legal advice.  WASB attorneys encourage any member board to refer inquiries about the application of law to any specific factual context to the school district’s legal counsel.

Part of the determination of what to do regarding employee compensation during a school closure for a pandemic depends upon why the employee cannot report to work and whether the district wishes to mitigate the loss of income for the employee. Specific paid leave benefits or wages for teachers and support staff due to a school closure for emergency reasons (like the pandemic) has more variance due to differences in individual contracts, employee handbooks and board policies regarding fitness for duty determinations, leave availability (sick, emergency/personal, vacation, administrative), acceptable uses for such leave and whether the school district has existing emergency school closing language that addresses the make-up of such days, the pay for such days or the ability to use paid leave for such days.

Teachers have individual contracts and those individual contracts will take precedence over other items. If in-person or online learning is not occurring and the teacher is not required to report to work, many districts are keeping teachers in a paid salary basis during any closure due to the pandemic due to the teacher’s individual contract terms. Some districts have decided to pay support staff employees who are not required to report to work.  In order to effectuate that decision, the ability to remain in a paid status might be done through the following:

  1. Determining that existing sick leave/emergency leave/personal leave cover the school closing due to the pandemic; or
  2. Affording the employee the opportunity to remain in a paid status by using any available paid sick leave/emergency leave/personal leave in combination with any available vacation; or
  3. Providing board-approved administrative paid leave to the employee (this would require separate board action since most school districts would not have a provision like this in their existing policies or employee handbooks); or
  4. Advance wages to employees for the lost time and if the district chooses to make it up later, the employee has already been paid for such days.  This may need the voluntary agreement of the employee.

Paying Employee Compensation from Federal Grant Sources

  • Refer to DPI’s School Finance Frequently Asked Questions Document for information on (1) payment of staff salaries with federal grant funds during the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) related accounting and time and effort documentation requirements. (See question 6 on page 2 and the questions included under the Staff Salaries section on pages 10-14).
  • Districts that are planning to pay staff salaries with federal grant funds during the COVID-19 pandemic will need to incorporate language into their written district policies and procedures related to employee compensation during unexpected or extraordinary circumstances. According to the DPI, the cost is not an allowable cost under a federal grant unless it is consistent with a local educational agency’s written policies and procedures. The DPI has drafted sample policy language to expedite the incorporation of such information into a district’s official policy, which is based on guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Subscribers to WASB’s Policy Resource Guide should look for this sample policy in the online PRG under the policy code 671.5.
  • Refer to U.S. Department of Education’s April 8 guidance for information on paying the compensation of an employee paid with federal grant funds during the period the employee is unable to work because school is closed due to the pandemic.

Use of State Categorical Aids for Personnel Costs

  • According to the DPI, personnel costs incurred during the COVID-19 health emergency will remain eligible for certain state categorical aids. In order for salaries, wages, paid leave and other employee benefits to remain aid-eligible, compensation must be paid consistent with the district’s policies and procedures for paying compensation from all funding sources, federal and non-federal, under unexpected or extraordinary circumstances. (Refer to the sample policy language referenced above.) The district must also continue to pay for similarly situated employees whose compensation is not aid-eligible. Employees being redeployed to other roles and serving the greater good in a meaningful capacity (e.g., deep cleaning, delivering meals) may continue to be paid with funds eligible for state categorical aids, assuming those employees would otherwise be eligible for paid leave and are not required for direct services under their usual aid-eligible positions. Districts do not need to create and maintain time and effort documentation for aid-eligible employees redeployed to other roles during the health emergency.
  • For additional information on the state categorical aids falling under the above-mentioned DPI determination, and the specific eligibility details for each, refer to School Financial Services COVID-19 Update #6 (issued on April 27). Due to the student-driven nature of High Cost Special Education Aid, the DPI is not able to include it in this determination.

Additional Resources:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Temporary Rule providing initial regulations for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (April 2020)
Unemployment Compensation Eligibility During a School Closure Due to a Pandemic

WASB attorneys have received a number of questions regarding unemployment compensation during a school closure during a pandemic. The following is provided as general information and is not offered as legal advice.  WASB attorneys encourage any member board to refer inquiries about the application of law to any specific factual context to the school district’s legal counsel. If the support staff employee is told not to report to work and is not paid, the employee may be able to file for unemployment compensation since the employee doesn’t have reasonable assurance of a return to work date.  Refer to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development “Unemployment Compensation Guide” that addresses educational employees and reasonable assurance.

Additional Resources:

  • 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 included a number of changes to the state’s unemployment insurance program for which school districts should be aware. Under Act 185, the one-week waiting period for the receipt of benefits is inapplicable to claimant benefit years that begin after March 12, 2020, and prior to February 7, 2021. Another significant temporary change to unemployment insurance concerns the extent to which regular benefits will be charged back to employers.
    • When processing initial claims for regular benefits payable for weeks beginning after March 12, 2020, and beginning before December 31, 2020, the DWD will determine whether a claim is related to the public health emergency declared on March 12, 2020, by executive order 72. If such a claim is determined to be related to the public health emergency, then the regular benefits paid for that claim shall, for all “reimbursable employers” (including school districts), be charged to the administrative account and paid from the appropriation established under state law.
    • In order to take maximum advantage of the Act 185 provisions that avoid charging the cost of regular benefits back to the school district as a reimbursable employer, each school district will want to ensure that, to the extent relevant to any claim, the district provides the information that establishes that the claim relates to the public health emergency. The DWD will likely provide additional information about this process in the near future, including the extent to which such a designation might be made retroactively.
  • On April 2, the U.S. Department of Labor issued new guidance (Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 14-20) outlining relevant provisions of the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act related to the administration of and eligibility criteria for state unemployment insurance programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for those not typically eligible for unemployment insurance, and expanded unemployment insurance benefits.
Fitness for Duty
  • On March 21, 2020, the EEOC updated previous guidance in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act workplace protections and rules. The updated guidance includes the following introductory note:The EEOC is updating this 2009 publication to address its application to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).  Employers and employees should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state/local public health authorities on how best to slow the spread of this disease and protect workers, customers, clients, and the general public.  The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act do not interfere with employers following advice from the CDC and other public health authorities on appropriate steps to take relating to the workplace.
School Finance
  • WASB Government Relations Staff’s memo entitled “Wisconsin’s Estimated Share and Permissible Use of Federal Funding Under the CARES Act”, which summarizes the allocation process and the permissible uses for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding (issued April 2, 2020). School leaders should be aware that the CARES Act requires that public school districts receiving these funds must provide equitable service to non-public schools. School leaders should also be aware that the Act contains language that conditions the receipt of federal education stabilization funds by local educational agencies (e.g., school districts), states, institutions of higher education, or other entities, upon those entities continuing, to the greatest extent practicable, to pay employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus.
  • Summer 2020 Online Instruction – On May 5, an emergency rule revision to PI 17 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code was published dealing with summer and interim sessions receiving state aid. The emergency rule, which will be in place for the summer of 2020, expands the ability to use online instruction for summer school and count instruction minutes for membership. This change was made to ensure districts have the flexibility they may need to address the uncertainties posed by COVID-19. According to the DPI, the emergency rule does not change the types of classes that can be offered through summer school, but rather allows districts to offer those classes in an online format for all grades K-12, expanding the online option that is currently limited to credit-bearing courses in grades 7-12.
    • On May 12, the DPI School Finance Team issued new guidance on “Counting Minutes of Online Instruction for Summer 2020 Under PI 17 and Emergency Rule 2003”. For the summer of 2020, school districts can offer blended or fully online summer school classes for all grades K-12 and have the instructional minutes be counted for student membership. Any such online summer school class must be: (1) offered by the school district; (2) offered to resident students or nonresident students attending under open enrollment; and (3) taught by a teacher licensed by the DPI, a teacher licensed by the state from which the online course is offered, or a faculty member of an institution of higher education who is authorized to teach high school. As with in-person summer school classes, online summer classes must be offered for academic purposes, which are “learning experiences that are related or similar to instruction that is offered during the rest of the school year or for which credit toward graduation is given.” According to the DPI, there is no actual distinction for “remedial” or “enrichment” classes — content that meets the definition of academic purposes for in-person summer school will also meet that definition for online summer school. Refer to the guidance document for further information.
  • Reporting Instructional Days and Hours for the 2019-20 School Year – School districts are reminded that they must still complete the state-required School Calendar Report (PI-1505) for the DPI that reports the days and hours of instruction for the 2019-20 school year whether or not they received a waiver of instructional hours from the DPI. The health order to close schools and the shift in district instructional models to virtual or other remote learning will affect the way in which districts count and report instructional time for the school year. The DPI has provided special guidelines to assist school officials in completing the School Calendar Report for the 2019-20 school year. The due date for submitting this report has been extended to Friday, August 14, 2020.
  • State Financial Reports and Year-End Audits – On April 27, the DPI reminded school districts there will be no delays in state financial reports and year-end audits. Determination of state aid payments, especially the crucial Oct. 15 certification of general state aids, relies upon accurate data submitted within established deadlines. According to DPI School Financial Services COVID-19 Update #6, Gov. Evers’ most recent “safer at home” order closes schools for instruction and extracurricular activities through the end of June, but it also specifies that essential governmental functions “needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government body” are to continue. Nothing in the emergency order suspends the need for districts to conduct their year-end fiscal activities, nor to prevent auditors and employees from accessing buildings and records for business purposes.
    • While PI 14 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code requires that school district audits be conducted on-site, the DPI understands that the current situation calls for being flexible in the interpretation of “on-site.” DPI’s School Finance Team recommends that districts work with their auditors to identify audit processes that will maximize health and safety while maintaining operations. For example, an auditor could conduct field work remotely with an employee on-site to locate and scan invoices or other needed financial records.
  • U.S. Department of Education’s “Fact Sheet: Select Questions Related to Use of Department of Education Grant Funds During the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019,” which was issued on April 8.
    • Donation or Loan of Unused Personal Protective Equipment Purchased with Federal Grant Funds – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on April 15 that school career and technical education programs can donate or loan personal protective equipment (PPE – e.g., gloves, masks, face shields, gowns), other medical supplies or equipment, or equipment that may be used to produce medical supplies (e.g., 3-dimensional printers) that were purchased with federal funds and are not needed for program activities at the time of donation, to public health agencies, private nonprofit hospitals and other licensed health care providers to support the coronavirus response effort. According to Department of Education guidance issued in relation to such donations, grantees and subgrantees must maintain appropriate document of the disposition of all donated or loaned items, and make the records available to the DOE during monitoring, audits or other reviews. Grantees and subgrantees must maintain the records for a minimum of three years and until the resolution of any audit, monitoring or oversight conducted relative to the donation or loan consistent with federal requirements.
  • U.S. Dept. of Education “FAQ” Resource on CARES Act Funding for School Districts – The Frequently Asked Questions document (released in early May) addresses the “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund” (ESSER Fund), which was established as part of the federal CARES Act. Under the ESSER Fund, the DPI will award subgrants to local educational agencies to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools. The Frequently Asked Questions attempt to answer questions that are not easily understood from a plain reading of Section 18003 and other parts of the CARES Act or the ESSER Fund Certification and Agreement (C&A). It was developed in direct response to questions that the U.S. Dept. of Education has received from states and schools about implementing the ESSER Fund program.
  • GASB 84 and GASB 87 are Postponed – The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has postponed the effective dates of a few recently issued GASB Statements and Implementation Guides. In particular, GASB 84 (Fiduciary Funds) and its associated Implementation Guide are postponed to 2020-21. GASB 87 (Leases) and its Implementation Guide are postponed to 2021-22. The GASB encourages and permits early implementation of these statements, including GASB 84, but statements cannot be partially implemented. See this DPI web page for additional information.
  • DPI Provides Guidance on Federal Maintenance of Effort – According to this DPI web page, the existing local education agency “maintenance of effort” (MOE) requirements under the IDEA remain in place, and no additional exceptions have been added to address any shortfalls in expenditures due to the COVID-19 national emergency.
Insurance-Related Issues
  • Refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) fact sheet entitled “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Eligible Emergency Protective Measures,” which outlines appropriate actions that are necessary to protect public health and safety and provides guidance on the types of emergency protective measures that may be eligible under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, in accordance with the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, in order to ensure that resource constraints do not inhibit efforts to respond to this unprecedented disaster.
  • Graduation Ceremonies – Because schools are closed for instruction or other purposes through the end of the school year (which is June 30 under state law), except for essential functions described in the “safer at home” emergency order, questions have been raised about district graduation ceremonies or other forms of recognition for high school graduates this school year. In response to some of those questions:
      If districts have health or safety questions related to graduation ceremony/recognition options, they are encouraged to contact their local and/or county public health department, liability insurance carrier and district legal counsel.
Community/Family Engagement
  • Communications Tips
    When communicating with employees, students and families about Coronavirus, here are a few helpful key messages and tips to keep in mind:
    •  The priority is the health and safety of students and employees.
    • Schools work closely with public health officials and rely heavily on their guidance because they are the experts.
    • Local and state health departments are the best resources for current information about coronavirus.
    • Emphasize what is known at the time of the communication.
    • Include the date/time in all communications, including social media posts, because information can change quickly.
    • Include best hygiene practices in communications.
    • Create a web page that can be easily updated to links with the most current information from reliable sources, including the local and state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control.
    • The best way to combat rumors and speculation is easy access to reliable information.
  • Graduation Ceremonies – Because schools are closed for instruction or other purposes through the end of the school year (which is June 30 under state law), questions have been raised about district graduation ceremonies or other forms of recognition for high school graduates this school year. In response to some of those questions:
    — The DPI has developed “Considerations for Virtual Ceremonies During COVID-19.”
    — The Department of Health Services has also issued guidance and recommendations.
    If districts have health or safety questions related to graduation ceremony/recognition options, they are encouraged to contact their local and/or county public health department, liability insurance carrier and district legal counsel.
Additional Resources

School officials should refer to Additional Resources to keep up-to-date on the coronavirus and related prevention and intervention activities.

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