This email contains updates on COVID-19 regarding waivers, special education, virtual learning, and testing. Additionally, I have attached an FAQ from Governor Evers’ office, which was updated since yesterday’s communication.
The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will waive the hour requirement for any school district that requests the DPI to do so due to this ongoing public health emergency. As you and your community navigate the decisions ahead and look at what continuity of learning you can provide in this unprecedented situation, the department wants to ensure the agency is eliminating barriers in your ability to do this. You will still need to request this waiver per state law, but the DPI will expedite this process to make it as easy as possible for you. Accordingly, we are asking the governor to suspend a portion of the Administrative Code, so we may provide an expedited process and simple form for you to use to request a waiver and have it granted immediately. The department will provide you with this expedited process in the upcoming days.
It is increasingly clear that it will not be possible to complete testing this year due to the pandemic. The DPI will aggressively pursue a waiver request to the United States Department of Education (USDE) from this requirement and will work with the legislature and governor’s office around suspending the state test requirements this spring. In addition, we will continue discussions around the impact on report cards with all parties. We will keep you updated on this progress as we move forward.
Governor Evers’ FAQ (Updated and Attached)
The major change to this FAQ regarded special education. The FAQ now clarifies that if a school provides services through virtual learning, the school should make all reasonable efforts to provide students with disabilities equal access to the same opportunities, and, to the greatest extent possible, special education and related services are provided. Once school resumes, local educational agencies must make every effort to implement individualized education plans and should consider, on an individualized basis, whether and to what extent compensatory services are required due to the closure.
The DPI submitted a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waiver to USDA. This request is to waive the congregate feeding requirement for SFSP and SSO meals during unanticipated school closures at school and non-school sites during a public health emergency, such as COVID-19. The waiver is for all SFSP and SSO sponsors in good standing in the state. The approved waiver is posted at https://dpi.wi.gov/nutrition/coronavirus. In addition the DPI will be pursuing exemptions to any regulations that prevent you from providing meals for students. The department will keep you posted on waivers or exemptions granted.
The DPI is continuing to update our website with new curated resources to help you if you plan to offer virtual learning opportunities. Those resources are available at https://dpi.wi.gov/cal/innovation/virtual-learning-time/district-planning-and-implementation-resources and cross listed on the DPI’s COVID-19 page. You may also contact Janice Mertes, Assistant Director, Teaching and Learning Team at Janice.firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 267-1054 if you have additional needs or questions.
There are a number of developments due to action by the FCC related to residential broadband. Chairman Ajit Pai has asked broadband and telephone service providers and trade associations to open Wi-Fi hotspots to any individual who needs them. It appears all major providers have pledged to do so. The DPI is curating broadband and digital access resources that schools can leverage during this public health crisis.
DPI Staff Resources
As a reminder, the DPI has the following staff available for your specific questions:
- State School Nurse/Health Services Consultant Louise Wilson at email@example.com or (608) 266-8857.
- Special Education Team via the web form at https://dpi.wi.gov/support/contact-special-education or at (608) 266-1781.
- Janice Mertes, Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning - Learning Team at Janice.firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 267-1054.
- Viji Somasundaram, Director, Office of Student Assessment at email@example.com or (608) 267-1072.
- Tamara Mouw, Director, Teaching and Learning Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 266-2364.
- Jessica Sharkus, Director, School Nutrition Team at email@example.com or (608) 267-9121.
- Amanda Cullen, Director, Community Nutrition at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 267-9123.
- Jennifer Kammerud, Senior Policy Advisor at email@example.com or (608) 266-7073.
Thank you for your understanding and patience as we address the COVID-19 situation.
Mike Thompson, PhD
Deputy State Superintendent