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COVID-19 Updates - March 19, 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Every day brings another round of news adding to the rapidly changing situation created by COVID-19. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) staff continues to be available to support you and your work in this unprecedented health emergency. The department has a number of updates in this email that address serving special education students, school meals, board meetings, and waiver requests.

Special Education

The DPI published new guidance Extended School Closure for Students with IEPs due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 18. This is a short (3 page) document. The department will add to this resource as additional questions arise. As noted in the guidance,

We would also like to encourage districts to provide learning opportunities to students if possible so students can make educational progress despite the significant disruption of school closures. This includes providing students with disabilities access to these opportunities to the greatest extent possible during this public health emergency. If some services cannot be provided or minutes are reduced, the LEA must consider, whether and to what extent, compensatory services are required once the school reopens. These determinations must be made on an individual student basis.

School Meals

The department updated its Q&A on school meals on Wednesday, March 18. Important updates are provided in this Q&A related to:

  • Approval to continue to provide and claim meals for students (Question #2).
  • School food service program (SFSP) and seamless summer option (SSO) regulations and student eligibility (Question #3).

DPI has received approval from USDA to allow the program to be offered to all students and therefore meals may be provided in the manner most appropriate, regardless of eligibility.

  • Meal pattern flexibilities (Question #5).

The DPI is currently in the process of requesting a milk waiver. There is also federal legislation proposed that may offer some flexibility, once passed.

  • How to claim meals (Question #8).
  • Multiple days worth of meals (Question #14).

You may provide meals for up to one week for households at one time.

  • Spring break meals (Question #15).

Meals provided during spring breaks are allowable and may be claimed for reimbursement.

  • Parent/adult pickup of meals for children (Question #17).
  • Reimbursement for mileage and delivery costs (Question #20)

You can receive reimbursement as long as the delivery costs are for food service purposes and meets record keeping requirements.

Board Meetings

Governor Tony Evers’ order prohibiting gatherings of more than 9 people exempts local government facilities. The governor’s office has clarified to the department this order does not restrict school boards from meeting in person. This undoubtedly raises questions about how to hold public meetings in the midst of a public health emergency. The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new guidance on this topic on March 16, and it is provided as a reference.

Waiver Requests

Hours of Instruction

The department will grant waivers to any district who is requesting one for the hours of instruction requirement. You will be able to request a waiver at any time before the end of the school year. The department requested the governor approve our request to suspend portions of the administrative code (PI 8), so we may provide a simple process to apply for a waiver from the hours of instruction. Once that approval is granted, we will notify districts of this simplified and expedited process. If you plan on submitting a waiver request prior to us providing you with this simplified process, you will need to meet all requirements as outlined in rule and statute. Regardless of which option you choose, you are required under state statute to hold a public hearing prior to submitting a request. This provision can be accomplished by phone or other virtual setting. See DOJ guidance.

Civics Exam

The department has received numerous questions surrounding the civics exam requirement for high school graduation. DPI has developed resources to assist you in meeting that requirement during this closure. As a reminder, this is not a state exam, but rather a locally administered set of questions. We know districts vary in their ability to meet this requirement and have provided a form for you to request a wavier if it becomes necessary. The department does not anticipate waiving state graduation requirements of 15 credits. School boards determine what constitutes a credit and the department encourages you to be flexible and consider how students may meet graduation requirements during this health emergency.

All Other Waivers

The DPI has authority to grant waivers to school districts from requirements in state statute from Chapters 115 to 121. The department will consider all waiver requests and will provide a simplified Google form to submit requests, so districts can receive a response as quickly as possible.

DPI Staff Resources

The department is updating our web page on COVID-19 and using this as the central location from which you can access all COVID-19 resources, including these email updates. Key staff contacts are also listed again for your convenience:

State School Nurse/Health Services Consultant Louise Wilson at or (608) 266-8857.

Special Education Team via the web form at or at (608) 266-1781.

Janice Mertes, Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning – Digital Learning, Online & Blended Learning, Virtual Learning Time, and Technology at or (608) 267-1054.

Viji Somasundaram, Director, Office of Student Assessment at or (608) 267-1072.

Tamara Mouw, Director, Teaching and Learning Team at or (608) 266-2364.

Jessica Sharkus, Director, School Nutrition Team at or (608) 267-9121.

Amanda Cullen, Director, Community Nutrition at or (608) 267-9123.

Jennifer Kammerud, Senior Policy Advisor at or (608) 266-7073.

The department thanks you for your efforts to provide continuity of learning and meals to students in this unprecedented emergency. If you or your staff have a moment and would like to share the ways in which you are accomplishing this work right now, please email Beth Tomev, Communications Director, at

Thank you for all you do.