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COVID-19 Update - April 29, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Dear District Administrators,

This email includes a request from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and updates on graduation ceremonies, summer school and reopening schools, school finance, federal waivers, and childcare donations request.

Department of Health Services (DHS) Request

Please see the communication below from DHS regarding additional temporary food benefits.

The U.S Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services has approved Wisconsin’s request to issue Pandemic EBT or P-EBT benefits. These are temporary food benefits that will ensure children who attend schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and who normally receive free or reduced priced school meals continue to have access to nutritious meals while schools are closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is working with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and Department of Children and Families to issue these benefits based on information on file for children receiving free and reduced price meals. Benefits will be issued in a phased approach, and if information is not available through existing data, parents or guardians will be able to apply for the benefits through a streamlined application process. See the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website for information about the benefit issuance schedule and notification to families whose information is on file.

We will need your help notifying families whose information is not on file that they need to apply in order to get the benefits. We will be providing information on the application process by May 8. Please plan to distribute this information to schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program so they can share with the families to whom it applies.

If you have questions about Pandemic EBT benefits, please email the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Graduation Ceremonies

Under DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm’s Order #28, school districts are closed through the end of the school year, which is June 30 under Wisconsin State Statutes. Absent any further orders, this means school facilities are closed through June 30 for instruction or other purposes except for the essential functions laid out in the order. This has given rise to many questions around graduation. DPI developed considerations for personally identifiable information related to virtual graduation ceremonies and is sharing a document developed by Madison and Dane County Public Health describing options around graduation based on current statewide health orders. If you have health questions around graduation options, DPI encourages you to contact your local county health department for guidance.

Summer School and Reopening Schools

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sent to the White House a draft document for approval laying out guidance around reopening some facilities, including schools. This is draft guidance that has not yet been approved. Further, any specific health orders would come from DHS or your local county health department. DPI will be looking at CDC guidance and working with DHS and education groups, as the department develops guidance for the reopening of schools. department will be prioritizing aspects of this guidance to ensure we are quickly publishing needed information for the summer and fall.

DPI is developing an emergency rule for PI 17 to expand online summer school options to all grades for all courses provided for an academic purpose (e.g. classes related or similar to instruction that is offered during the regular school year). State Superintendent Stanford Taylor approved a scope statement allowing the department to draft an emergency rule. The department held a preliminary hearing on the scope statement last week and has just received approval to move forward from the Governor’s Office. The department anticipates being able to provide you with a copy of the rule tomorrow, along with an effective date.

Additionally, Madison and Dane County Public Health published Recommendations for Closing and Cleaning Schools for the Summer. These recommendations are in line with current state health orders. The department is providing this information for your reference and encourages you to discuss questions surrounding the closing and cleaning of schools in preparation for the summer with your local county health department if you have further questions.

School Finance

There will be no delays in state financial reports and year-end audits for school districts due to COVID-19.

The financial reporting cycle for state aids paid in 2020-21 begins with the PI-1547 Pupil Transportation Report, which opens May 11 and is due on July 17. The PI-1505, PI-1505-AC, and PI-1505-SE annual school district reports will open in early July and be due in September as usual. Determination of state aid payments, especially the crucial October 15 certification of general school aids, relies upon accurate data submitted within established deadlines.

Auditors have begun contacting school district clients about scheduling their June pre-audit work and July-August field work. As a reminder, Emergency Order #28 (April 16, 2020) 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 Emergency Order #28 suspends the need for school districts to conduct their year-end fiscal activities, nor does it prevent auditors and employees from accessing buildings and records for business purposes. PI 14 requires school district audits be conducted on-site, but the DPI understands the current situation calls for being flexible in the interpretation of “on-site.” The DPI recommends 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.

Federal Waivers

required under the CARES Act, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a report to Congress recommending additional waiver authority under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Perkins Act. Secretary DeVos did not recommend any waivers to the core provisions of IDEA. The secretary is requesting Congress consider some flexibilities on administrative requirements and allow local educational agencies to keep funds allotted under Perkins for 2019-2020 if funds were not spent during the COVID-19 emergency.

Separately, Secretary DeVos made waivers available on fiscal flexibility, testing, report cards, and school identifications, which DPI applied for and received. The DPI has published a document describing what these waivers mean for local educational agencies.

Childcare Donations Request

As you may have heard, Wisconsin child care centers, that are providing critical support to essential workers during this healthcare emergency, are struggling to acquire necessary cleaning supplies in order to keep children and workers as safe as possible. With school buildings closed through June 30, the Department of Public Instruction is working with The Department of Children and Families and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA), to facilitate donations of needed supplies from our K-12 districts to our child care centers. If you have available cleaning supplies and would consider donating please complete this form to participate:

If you have any questions about donations, please contact Kelly Matthews at WECA

The most recent information on COVID-19 is always available on the department’s COVID-19 web page. If you have questions, please email the department on our COVID-19 email address, so the DPI can ensure you receive a response from the appropriate staff member.