The Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm, under the direction of Governor Tony Evers, issued an order closing schools effective Wednesday, March 18 with an anticipated reopening on April 6. Additionally, Secretary-Designee Palm’s press release goes on to clarify the order goes into effect at 5:00 p.m. on March 18. In light of this order, and your recent questions, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is providing you with the following information.
Hours of Instruction
Districts have the ability to request a waiver from DPI regarding hours of instruction. Whether school closures were either mandated by the state or locally determined because of COVID-19, the department will address the issue of waivers based on the severity and length of the situation. The DPI will be empathetic to the ability of a district to reasonably meet the hours requirement. The department does not yet know the impact of closures or their length. I know you are thinking about the impacts of closing schools on students and staff, and DPI will work with you to address the situation. DPI will do whatever we can to expedite the process surrounding waivers and meet the needs of school districts.
U.S. Department of Education (ED) indicates their goal is for all states to meet the assessment requirements under section 1111(b)(2) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. DPI asked each of our assessment vendors to determine whether the assessment windows can be extended. We are working with these vendors to identify the feasibility of this option and will relay information to you as soon as it becomes available.
ED has published a fact sheet addressing COVID-19 and testing waivers. Please know we are actively exploring all options, including a waiver, from ED if closures prevent statewide testing.
The ED issued new resources around protecting student privacy and addressing questions regarding serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. If a school is closed for an extended period of time (generally, more than 10 consecutive school days) and educational services are not provided to other students, then services are not required for students with disabilities during the closure. 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. If a school provides services through virtual learning, the school must ensure students with disabilities have equal access to the same opportunities, and that to the greatest extent possible, special education and related services are provided. More information about virtual learning may be found here.
DPI submitted a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) waiver to USDA. This request is to waive the congregate feeding requirement for SFSP meals during unanticipated school closures at school and non-school sites during a public health emergency, such as novel coronavirus. The waiver is for all SFSP sponsors in good standing in the state. The public notice informing the public about the proposed waiver is posted at https://dpi.wi.gov/community-nutrition/sfsp. As a resource, DPI has developed a webpage for options for serving children meals in a non-congregate setting in the event of a school closure due to COVID-19.
The department will continue to use these emails to keep you updated with the latest information we have. Our COVID-19 website will continue to serve as our main resource and will be updated with the latest information.