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Louisiana School Closure and Educator Work Requirement: FAQs


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In response to educators’ immediate and emerging needs, the NEA Foundation is offering three new grant opportunities to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning:
 


1. COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants (to be awarded during the Spring and Summer, 2020): 

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3. COVID-19 Response - Student Success Grants (to be awarded in September 2020):

A full description of these grant opportunities, including related criteria, guidelines, and timelines, can be found at www.neafoundation.org/for-educators/covid-rapid-response-grants.


 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

About School Closures and School Employee Work Requirements 
in the Wake of Louisiana’s COVID-19 Pandemic

Q: Is every school employee required to report to work during Louisiana’s state-mandated school closure time-period?

 

A: Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, all public schools in the State of Louisiana closed facilities to students until April 13, 2020. According to the Louisiana Department of Education, decisions about whether staff report to school facilities remains the decision of the local governing authority, but due to overall health and safety concerns, LAE urges local school district leaders to allow educators to work remotely and conduct distance education as capabilities exist.

The LAE believes Governor Edwards’ proclamation leaves out needed guidance to maintain the health and safety of school personnel. 

“The Governor and members of the state board of education need to take more aggressive action to protect school personnel and the public they serve. Lawmakers should amend mandates to assign all non-essential school personnel, across the state, to work from home,” commented LAE President Dr. Tia Mills. “Part of why schools are closed is to limit the spread of what’s been proven to be a highly contagious virus. The sooner people can get home and stay, the less likely they are to be exposed to or carry the illness.”  

If a workplace is closed for safety concerns, individuals who have access to that facility should take every precaution necessary to stay safe. Requiring teachers to come into possibly contaminated schools can create considerable liabilities.

Q: Will school employees be paid during the state-mandated school shut-down?

 

A: All board-appointed school personnel should continue to receive payroll checks as normal during the closure period.

Q: Will school employees be required to make up days?


A: It is not likely that school employees will be required to make up days. According to a state proclamation issued by Governor Edwards, the required 63,720 instructional-minute school year requirement shall be suspended. Instructional minute requirements shall be temporarily suspended for distance education courses and for curriculum delivery. 

With appropriate social distancing measures, schools shall, if able, continue to provide meals or other essential services with applicable staff.

BESE shall report to the Governor and the Legislature any further actions necessary to ensure that eligible students achieve successful student grading, promotion, and graduation.

Q: Will the state waive end-of-the-year testing requirements?

 

A:  On Friday, March 20, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that students impacted by school closures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year. Upon a proper request, the Department will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year.

Read the full news release distributed by the U.S. Department of Education, HERE.

Governor John Bel Edwards announced Louisiana's intention to file the proper request in a proclamation one day prior to DeVos' announcement due to efforts lead by Louisiana Senators Regina Barrow and Cleo Fields, Chair of the Senate Ed Committee, Rep. Ray Garofalo, Chair of the House Ed Committee, Sandy Holloway, President of BESE, and Beth Scioneaux, Interim Superintendent of Education, that called for the suspension of certain laws in light of the closing of schools due to the COVID-19 virus. The proclamation requires BESE to apply for a federal waiver requesting the suspension of certain provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the 2019-20 school year, including:

Testing Administration
School and District Accountability
Teacher Evaluation and Credentialing
Student Attendance
Teacher Work Days
Charter School Application and Enrollment
 

Check out Governor Edwards’ full proclamation, HERE.

So the answer is: Yes, the state will suspend testing requirements as soon as a waiver is submitted to the USDOE and approved.

Q: What is LAE’s position on school districts’ asks for employees to report to work during the current school closure period?

 

A: The LAE urges local superintendents and school board members to make informed decisions during this time. Due to overall health and safety concerns, LAE urges local school systems to allow educators to work from home. The reason schools are closed is to limit the spread of the virus. The sooner people can get home and stay, the less likely they are to be exposed or carry the virus. Requiring teachers to come into possibly contaminated schools could create considerable liabilities for school districts. It is important to note that if a school employee is given a direct order to report to school, then the school employee must comply or take leave. Any failure to do so may be viewed as insubordination and result in an attempted disciplinary action; however, LAE is consulting with education legal experts to determine if this policy would be waived in a situation where a work environment poses imminent danger to any individual who is directed to access a facility in which a threat or health hazard is present. 

The LAE believes that only school personnel with credentials to sanitize and disinfect school facilities should perform these types of duties.  


Q:  What does the recent school closures mean for LAE and its services?

 

A: There will be no disruption in service to association members throughout the duration of the school closure time period. LAE field and headquarters staff will resume regular work operations. In order to take every safety precaution, we are minimizing the number of staff who are physically present at the headquarters office in Baton Rouge, but all staff are working remotely and are available via email and telephone during regular hours of operation -- Monday - Friday from 8:30 AM until 5:30 PM.

LAE leaders and staff are in constant talks with state policy makers to make this time of transition and uncertainty as smooth as possible. We will continue to update this FAQ page, in addition to sharing important information on social media and via email. 

Q: What types of resources are available to educators required to conduct online instruction or desire to continue conducting student learning during the school closure time period?

 

A: The LAE is partnering with the association’s professional development arm, The Teaching and Learning Center, to provide webinars to teachers who need guidance on how to deliver online instruction to students. The first two sessions will take place Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20 both beginning at 4 PM and lasting until about 6 PM. CLICK HERE to sign up for one of the webinar of your choice. 

 


FAQ from the Louisiana Department of Education


Q: Relative to attendance, what are the waiver opportunities for students who may not have the necessary 63,720 instructional minutes per year?


A: The annual 63,720 instructional minute requirement has been suspended via the Governor’s proclamation.

 

Q: Can our school system transition to an online learning platform or other distance education modality for the remainder of the school year?


A: Yes, instructional minute requirements have also been suspended for distance education courses and curriculum delivery via the Governor’s proclamation.

 

Q: Is there a state approval process for general online providers?

 

A: There is not a state approval process for general online education providers. School systems have the choice and autonomy to approve and use any online provider that delivers instruction within the provisions of Bulletin 741 Section 2326. School systems also have an option to utilize online providers that have been vetted and approved as Course Choice providers by BESE. Supplemental Course Allocation (SCA) funds can continue to be used to pay associated course costs with these providers through June 30, 2020.

 

Q. Will the Department provide distance and homeschool learning tools to support school systems during this time?

A: Yes. LADOE posted distance and home learning supports for educators, students, and caregivers including:

LADOE is working with Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) to do the following:

LADOE will announce further availability of these resources through all upcoming school system planning calls and newsletters.

 

Q: Are school systems required to offer distance learning, or is this optional? Will a school system be penalized for not providing formal distance education and instead providing access to materials and resources? Will days or minutes need to be made up?

 

A: School systems are not required to offer distance learning. Schools may offer complete distance learning, as capabilities exist. The required 63,720 instructional minute requirement per year shall also be suspended and minutes will not have to be made up.

 

Q: Are students required to participate in distance learning if it is offered?

 

A: School systems may offer distance education and may keep track of which students are participating.

 

Q: What is the definition of “distance learning”? Does this include access to online curricular materials or the use of platforms like Google Classroom?

 

A: The components of a distance education program can be found in Bulletin 741 Section 2326.

 

Q: If teachers are offering lessons through YouTube or other student-directed formats, must teachers take attendance? Can attendance be project-based (i.e., based on the completion of longitudinal projects)?

 

A: If school systems offer distance education, the school system must take student attendance every school day, and the teacher of record for each class must take attendance at the beginning of each class period.

 

Q: What is the protocol for 12th-grade students who need to pass currently enrolled courses?

 

A: These are local school system decisions based on student needs. The school system may opt to employ distance education options to continue student learning or may opt to re-engage in instruction when the student returns to school.

 

Q: Will JumpStart credential completion remain a mandatory requirement for JumpStart diploma students?

 

A: The Bulletin 741 Section §2319 Career Diploma IBC requirement has been waived through August 31, 2020.

 

Q: What opportunities are available through Supplemental Course Academy/Course Choice for students to access online learning opportunities?

 

A: The Supplemental Course Academy/Course Choice program Frequently Asked Question document has information available regarding students currently enrolled in courses and opportunities for new enrollments including an Intersession catalog of options and directions for registering for intersession courses.

 

Q: What ACT preparation is available through Supplemental Course Allocation/Course Choice and other providers through June 30?

 

A: Several Supplemental Course Allocation/Course Choice providers and additional providers will have content available through June 30 for ACT preparation.

 

Q: What are the most important considerations for a school system shifting to distance education/online learning?


A: It is critically important for school systems to communicate with parents and guardians during and after the school closure regarding their child’s special education and related services. During the school closure, special education and related services may be impacted, and parents must understand what this means for their child during the school closure and when the child returns to school.

School systems should continue to provide special education and related services, to the extent possible. The determination of how a free and appropriate education (FAPE) is to be provided may need to be different during school closures that are a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided through distance instruction provided virtually, online, or telephonically.

School systems should develop a plan to document any delays or instructional adjustments to the delivery of special education and related services. After an extended closure, school systems are responsible for reviewing how the closure impacted the delivery of special education and related services to students eligible for special education services. A data review should be conducted on all students with disabilities. If the student lost progress, teams will need to reassess services and determine whether the student requires compensatory education.

 

Q: Does a school system have flexibility to adapt the instructional method of delivery of special education and related services for distance education/online learning?

 

A: The U.S. Department of Education, in a Supplemental Fact Sheet issued on March 21, clarified that during this national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided. It may be unfeasible or unsafe for some schools, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language educational services. Many disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online. These may include, for instance, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing.

 

Q: What are some opportunities to continue to provide related or direct services to students with disabilities?

 

A: School systems can consider both low-tech and high-tech options for providing related or direct services to students with disabilities during the school closure. The provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, related services provided through distance instruction provided virtually, online, or telephonically.

The Department released the Partnerships for Success vendor guide, which includes an informal list of organizations, utilizing innovative methods of delivery including teletherapy options, that can provide related or direct services to students with disabilities. The guide includes a list of certified providers, the services they provide (e.g. speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, school psychological services), and the method of delivery (e.g. virtual/teletherapy).

 

Q: What if there is a delay in providing special education and related services--or a delay in making decisions about how to provide services--as school systems shift to distance education/online learning?

 

A: Per the U.S. Department of Education, in a Supplemental Fact Sheet issued on March 21, it is important to emphasize that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented national emergency. FAPE may be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing special education and related services to students. Where, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting closures of schools, there has been an inevitable delay in providing services – or even making decisions about how to provide services - IEP teams must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume.

 

Q: If a school system shifts to distance education/online learning during a closure, is the school system responsible for providing special education and related services?

 

A: If a school system makes distance education/online learning available for all students during a closure, it must also consider how it will provide online services for its students with disabilities to ensure equal access. School systems must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, students with disabilities can be provided special education and related services identified in their IEP or their Section 504 plan.

Per the U.S. Department of Education, in a Supplemental Fact Sheet issued on March 21, where technology itself imposes a barrier to access or where educational materials simply are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students. For example, if a teacher who has a blind student in her class is working from home and cannot distribute a document accessible to that student, she can distribute to the rest of the class an inaccessible document and, if appropriate for the student, read the document over the phone to the blind student or provide the blind student with an audio recording of a reading of the document aloud.

 

Q: In the event of a school system closure, is the school system responsible for providing special education and related services?

 

A: If a school system has extended school closures, the school system will remain responsible for FAPE of its students eligible for special education services with an IEP. If a school closure causes educational services for all students to pause within a school or school system, then the school/school system is generally not required to provide services to the affected students eligible for special education services during that same period of time. The school system should also consider whether the student could benefit from instructional telephone calls, online learning, and other distance-based learning approaches, to the extent available.

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a Q&A document on providing services to children with disabilities during the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Q: What should the school system do if an IEP or reevaluation is due during the school closure?

 

A: The U.S. Department of Education has provided guidance. IEP teams are not required to meet in person while schools are closed. If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and reevaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. These same principles apply to similar activities conducted by appropriate personnel for a student with a disability who has a plan developed under Section 504, or who is being evaluated under Section 504. School systems should develop a plan to support maintaining timelines and to document clearly if a delay occurs, the nature and extent of the delay and the plan to move as quickly as possible to prevent any further delay.

 

Q: If a school system shifts to distance education/online learning, does the school system need to conduct a change of placement IEP team meeting after 10 consecutive days of school closure?

 

A: OSEP has clarified that if a school system makes distance education/online learning available for all students during a closure, it is considered an alternate mode of instructional delivery. It does not constitute a change of placement. In other words, a school system does not need to follow the prior notice rules in 34 CFR § 300.503 or have an IEP team meeting to make a formal placement determination under 34 CFR § 300.116. If members of the IEP team believe that online or virtual learning should be a part of the IEP once school reopens, the IEP team would need to meet and incorporate that into the IEP.

Please see other Q&As in this section for additional considerations regarding equal access, compensatory services, and the impact on individual students at high-risk for complications.

 

Q: If a student with a disability at high-risk for complications is excluded from school during a COVID-19 outbreak, is the exclusion considered a change of placement under IDEA?

 

A: If the exclusion is a temporary emergency measure (generally 10 consecutive school days or less), the provision of services such as online or virtual instruction, instructional telephone calls, and other curriculum-based instructional activities, to the extent available, is not considered a change in placement. If the team decides that an individual student has high-risk needs that should be met through homebound instruction, then the school system must issue a prior written notice proposing the change in placement. Parents should participate in a discussion during an IEP team meeting held by telephone or video conference.

 

Q: Will school systems receive flexibility or extensions on mandated timelines for special education compliance, such as initial evaluations and reevaluations, during the COVID-19 school closure?


A: Federal and state law and state policy define specific timelines for the provision of special education and related services. BESE approved initial waivers for a number of educational policies, including initial evaluation policies that impact students with disabilities. See the BESE Emergency Waiver Memo for the list of specific educational policies that impact students with disabilities.

Federal regulations govern additional special education compliance timelines including but not limited to Part C to B transition, initial IEP development (30 days from determination of special education and related services), and reevaluation timelines. The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance on available flexibilities for IDEA Part B timelines. In general, school systems should develop a plan to support maintaining timelines and to document clearly if a delay occurs, the nature and extent of the delay and the plan to move as quickly as possible to prevent any further delay.

 

Q: Are school systems permitted to provide special education and related services at satellite sites?

 

A: If a school system continues to provide special education (e.g. specialized instruction) and related services (e.g. speech language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy) at a satellite site, the school system should follow each student’s IEP, including instructional goals and service minutes. See the Q&A above for considerations with Distance Education and for students with disabilities who are at high-risk for complications due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Q: Does the attendance requirement still apply for LA 4 payments?

 

A: Absences related to COVID-19 will be excused absences.

 

Q: What happens to LA 4 monthly payments if a school closes?


A: LA 4 payments will continue and will be based on enrollment.

 

Q. What are the current 2019-2020 academic year waiver requests?


A. BESE and the chairman of the House Education Committee requested that the following Louisiana state laws be waived for the entirety of the 2019-2020 academic year.

 

 

Q: How will the state handle testing as schools are closed?

 

A: On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education approved Louisiana's waiver request of assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act. This means Louisiana will not require standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year. Moreover, since testing data is required to be used in accountability systems, like Louisiana's annual report cards, the state will also exclude testing data from performance measures for the current school year.

 

Q: What happens to shipments arriving from the assessment vendor?


A: The Department is currently working with all assessment vendors to monitor and adjust the shipments of secure testing materials.

 

Q: Has the national test administration of ACT, scheduled for April 4, 2020 been postponed?

 

A: Yes. ACT has announced that the April 4 national test will be postponed until June 13. All individuals who are registered to take the ACT in April will receive emails from ACT with directions for free rescheduling of registration for June 13 or another future administration. Information is available on ACT’s website.

 

Q: Is the state working with ACT to identify new dates for testing windows?

 

A: Yes. Schools that selected March 17 standard time paper-based testing currently have secure materials stored in a secure location. All secure materials should be returned, however, and not saved for a future administration. If secure materials have not been picked up by FedEx, district test coordinators should:

 

Q: Will ACT testing be rescheduled? Should students plan to test during the make-up window?

 

A: The Department is working with ACT to identify new testing windows and new make-up windows.

 

Q: What ACT Prep Opportunities will be available to students?

 

A: BESE approved opportunities to continue taking ACT through Prep programs through the Course Choice program June 30, 2020 as part of the BESE waiver process. This action will provide school systems the opportunity to enroll students in ACT Prep programs from 5 different ACT Prep providers such as Princeton Review, Cambridge, etc. through June 30. Additionally, the Department will be sharing free ACT Prep opportunities through the March2Success program which provides an free,
non-obligational online study program to help students prepare for standardized tests, improve school work and review materials.

 

Q: What ACT preparation is available through Supplemental Course Allocation/Course Choice and other providers through June 30?

 

A: Several Supplemental Course Allocation/Course Choice providers and additional providers will have content available through June 30 for ACT preparation.

 

Q: What guidance has been provided for Advanced Placement, CLEP, and International Baccalaureate Assessment?

 

A: The current guidance from the College Board and IB can be found here.

 

Q: What guidance has the College Board provided for spring 2020 Advanced Placement Exams?

 

A: The College Board released information on Friday, March 20, 2020. The Department has reconciled a set of AP Assessment Updates and AP Exam FAQs.

 

Q: When will the LEAP window close given the new April 27 start date? What is the rationale around high school testing remaining the same?

 

A: New testing windows have not yet been determined. The LDOE is closely monitoring school system closures and distance learning and working with our testing vendors and school systems to inform decisions around statewide assessments. At this time, the grades 3-8 LEAP window would open no earlier than April 27. Many factors (e.g., graduation requirements, school calendars, number of devices, etc.) will inform the decision.

 

Q: Can students complete practice tests remotely, at home, or elsewhere?

 

A: Yes. The LDOE has a Parent Guide to the LEAP 2025 Practice Tests that provides information about the practice tests as well as instructions on how to access the practice tests. Please note when accessing the practice tests through the Parent Guide to the LEAP 2025 Practice Tests, student responses are not saved and reports are not generated but there is a link to answer keys that allow parents to check answers while the student is responding online. Paper tests are available for grades 3 and 4.

 

Q: How should school systems handle LEAP Connect materials?

 

A: The LEAP Connect 2020 UPS pickup deadline for test materials was Monday, March 16. District Test Coordinators should contact the UPS at 866-857-1501 to schedule a pickup. If you were not able to return materials by the deadline due to school closures, District Test Coordinators should notify DRC Customer Service.

 

Q: How does the school closure affect state and federal accountability?

 

A: Bulletin 111, Section 4501 and 4503, already provides for a one-year waiver of school and district performance scores and letter grades for schools closed from disaster for 18 or more consecutive days. The waiver is limited to the year in which the disaster occurred. In a memo from the BESE president, additional policy requirements around instructional time and graduation credential attainment were waived.

The BESE president and chairman from House Education Committee sent a memo to the Governor reiterating this rule and further requesting that state law requiring school performance scores and letter grades be waived for one year. The state superintendent is submitting a letter to the U.S. Department of Education asking for a waiver of compulsory testing and reporting of accountability results.

 

Q: Has cohort graduation data certification been postponed?

 

A: Yes. It did not open during the week of March. Accountability contacts will receive information as soon as rescheduling is finalized.

 

Q: Will educators be evaluated in the 2019-2020 academic year? If not, how will certification renewals be handled?


A: The Governor waived laws relative to educator evaluations for the 2019-2020 academic year. This included laws that require effective evaluations in order to renew or advance teacher or leader credentials.

School systems can continue to use and upload evaluation data for formative support and feedback in the Compass Information System. This information will be for internal school system use only.

In the coming weeks, the Department will provide additional guidance on certification renewal and advancement requests will be handled.

The Department will request additional policy waivers regarding requirements for VAM, which will not be produced this year.

 

Q: Can our school system transition to an online learning platform or other distance education modality for the remainder of the school year?

 

A: Distance education is allowed under current BESE policy.

If school systems offer distance education, the school system must take student attendance every school day, and the teacher of record for each class must take attendance at the beginning of each class period.

For special education students: excluding a child from school on a temporary, emergency basis while utilizing distance learning will generally not require convening the child's IEP team to consider a continuum of placements. Once the exclusion reaches 11 consecutive school days, however, it is no longer considered temporary, and the IDEA's procedural protections for changes in placement apply.

Furthermore, exclusion of a child due to his or her susceptibility to an epidemic, no matter its duration, must be based on the child's unique susceptibility, as determined by established high-risk criteria, not on mere stereotypes regarding the child's disability.

 

Q: What software can the school/school system access for free if I need to do online instruction? What resources are vendors offering?

 

A: The Department is being proactive and reaching out to vendors to provide Louisiana teachers and students with multiple options for delivering or accessing online instruction and educational materials. The Department will continue to update this information as it is received. A list of educational resources and software options are currently being curated and will be posted by end of day Monday, March 16.

 

Q: What resources are available for teachers to plan online assignments?

 

A: The Department is taking steps to curate academic resources for schools, teachers, students, and parents. It is:

The LADOE will continue to update this information regularly.

 

Q: How can we help students access computers?

 

A: Schools need to review their current device policies to decide if students will be able to utilize school-owned student devices at home in order to continue learning opportunities. To address school system/school concerns relative to tracking and managing school devices off-campus, the Department is working with Absolute Software to create a low-cost offering that will provide hardware tracking, monitoring, and reporting as well as investigating and recovering stolen/missing devices.

 

Q: What resources are available if students do not have internet at home and/or need assistance with accessing the Internet?

 

A: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has launched the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” which many broadband carriers have signed. For the next 60 days, its provisions will:

Additionally, limited income households can apply for $5 to $10 per month internet access (AT&T Access, Cox Connect2Compete, CenturyLink Lifeline). Charter Communication will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a subscription.


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