This email covers the recent stimulus, academic testing, and vaccine distribution updates.
The President signed into law a bill which included a new stimulus package to prepare for, respond to, and prevent COVID-19. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is still analyzing the law and awaiting additional information from the United States Department of Education (ED) but did want to share with you the information that follows based on what we know today.
The stimulus bill includes grant funds for local educational agencies (LEAs), known as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II). Initial estimates for the ESSER II allocation indicates the amount will be four times what was awarded under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER I) under the prior stimulus package last spring. ESSER II, like ESSER I, is required to be distributed based on the Title I formula, but does not include an equitable participation requirement. DPI will be seeking to establish a minimum dollar amount for each district as we did last spring, and are still in the process of determining how that floor amount will be determined. LEAs may spend their ESSER II award for expenditures through September 30, 2023.
The ESSER II funds may be used to cover the costs of a broad range of allowable activities, including all of the original activities under ESSER I as well as:
- addressing learning loss among students, including costs to administer assessments;
- school facility repairs and improvements to risk of virus transmission (inspecting, testing, repairing upgrading mechanical and non-mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, filtering, purification and other air cleaning, fans, control systems, and window and door repair and replacement); and
- other activities that are necessary to maintain the operation of and continuity of services in local educational agencies and continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency.
The department must next submit a plan for approval to the Joint Committee on Finance and will then provide an application in WISEgrants as soon as that step is completed. DPI does not have a specific timeline at this point, but is moving as quickly as possible to make these funds available to you.
Both state and federal law require the administration of statewide assessments in 2020-21. At this time, there has been no change in testing requirements. As a result, schools should plan to meet these requirements, including for students who are receiving instruction remotely.
The statewide assessments include the ACCESS for ELLs for all English Learners in grades K-12; Forward Exam for students in grades 3-8, and 10; DLM assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3-11; Aspire assessment for grades 9 & 10; and the eleventh grade ACT assessment.
A Strategies and Considerations for In-Person Assessment During a Pandemic resource, available on the Office of Educational Accountability webpage, provides considerations for district and school leaders to plan and administer assessments this spring.
The DPI will provide information on the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines to schools regarding the process as information becomes available. The process and schedule depends on multiple factors including: number of different vaccines approved for emergency use, ability to manufacture and deliver additional vaccines after initial supply is used, supply chain and logistics, and prioritization of individuals to receive vaccine based on risk and equity issues. The Department of Health Services (DHS) now has a general vaccine page at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine.htm.
Due to the initial limited supply of vaccine, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (SDMAC) developed Wisconsin-specific recommendations on vaccine prioritization. Based on these phase 1a recommendations from federal and state health experts, the first populations to receive vaccine will be frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. More information on the prioritization of healthcare personnel can be found in SDMAC’s Wisconsin-specific recommendations.
The Vaccine Distribution Subcommittee (“Subcommittee”) of the SDMAC developed guidance for the DHS plan for allocation of limited numbers of vaccine doses during the COVID-19. SDMAC (see https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p02858.pdf) has stated the definition of a healthcare personnel (HCP) is “individuals who provide direct patient service (compensated and uncompensated) or engage in healthcare services that place them into contact with patients who are able to transmit SARS-CoV-2, and/or infectious material containing SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
DPI has not received specific guidance from DHS regarding vaccinations for school staff including school nurses and school healthcare personnel who are in tier 1a. DHS has provided recommendations to local public health departments for coordination of COVID-19 vaccination of 1a unaffiliated health care workers. It is suggested that school districts contact and work with local public health departments to obtain vaccinations for those listed in the Wisconsin-specific recommendations developed by the SDMAC.
In some counties the definition of “school healthcare personnel mirrors that located in DHS’s outbreak guidance (https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p02757.pdf). Those who qualify as Tier 1a include “RNs/LPNs/PT/OT/SLPs and non-health care licensed school support staff working full time as health aides in schools without other assignments, and trained and supervised by a licensed health care professional such as a school nurse”. For private schools, Tier 1a staff might be those who are required to perform COVID related activities for students. Special education staff that conduct health-related activities might also be included in Tier 1a.
Students or youth age 16+ who are working in a job training/shadowing/apprenticeship program alongside Tier 1a school health personnel may also be included in Tier 1a per SDMAC recommendations. Note that there is not yet an approved vaccine for youth under age 16. The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine option for youth age 16 and 17. Not every vaccination site will have the Pfizer vaccine available.
All staff and students who qualify as Tier 1a should be working in-person to receive the vaccine as contact with possible COVID patients is part of the Tier 1a criteria.
As supply increases, recommendations will likely expand to cover other essential workers, people ages 65 and older, and people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to receive a vaccine. The timeline for these decisions will be based on multiple factors and is currently unknown. The same is true for phase 1b (essential workers), which includes educators. Nationwide, there are approximately 87 million individuals that fit in this category and we anticipate additional information from the SDMAC about further prioritization for phase 1b.
For more information on the planning and distribution process, view the COVID-19 vaccination plan DHS submitted to the CDC. You can also view DHS’s executive summary of the vaccination plan on the DHS website.