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Updates and Information in Response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Mississippi Public Schools Closed Through April 17, 2020

Gov. Tate Reeves issued an Executive Order directing all Mississippi schools to close through April 17, 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus). 

Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) Building Temporarily Closed to the Public

In an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the MDE office is closed to the general public until further notice. Our staff will continue to respond to needs of our school districts, parents and communities through email and our resources available on the MDE website. Please use our agency directory to locate email contact information: www.mdek12.org/directory.

MDE Updates and Guidance

The MDE continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. We are working with the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH), the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding preventive measures and the response to COVID-19.

This webpage provides guidance and resources to support the health and well-being of students, school and district employees, and communities. This page will be updated as new information becomes available.

MDE Updates to Districts

Week of March 30-April 3, 2020:

 

Guidance Topics for Districts and Families
Click on the topic name to view guidance and Q&A information

Assessment, Accountability and Accreditation

1. How will the state handle testing as schools are closed?

As of March 19, 2020, all Mississippi spring 2020 assessments have been cancelled.  

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a Fact Sheet: Impact of COVID-19 on Assessments and Accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 

What assessments have been suspended? 

On March 19, 2020, during its regularly scheduled meeting, the State Board of Education granted approval to suspend all federal and state requirements of the Mississippi Statewide Assessment System for the 2019 – 2020 school year: 

  • Pre-K and Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (post-test); 

  • Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) and MAAP-Alternate (MAAP-A) English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science – Grades 3 - 8 and High School End-of-Course; 

  • U.S. History; 

  • Statewide sponsored administration of the ACT for 11th graders; 

  • English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT); and 

  • Career Planning and Assessment System (CPAS). 

Kindergarten Dyslexia Screener 

Will the dyslexia screen be administered to the kindergarten class of 2019-2020? 

The spring dyslexia screener for kindergarteners in the 2019 – 2020 school year will not be administered. The screener will be administered in the fall of the 22019 – 2020 school year to all Grade 1 students. 

Grade 3 Reading 

Will the students enrolled in Grade 3 in the 2019-2020 school year be promoted to Grade 4 if the assessment is suspended? 

All students enrolled in Grade 3 in the 2019 – 2020 school year shall be promoted to Grade 4 for the 2020 – 2021 school year if the student meets all other district requirements for promotion. 

2. What happens to shipments arriving from the assessment vendor? 

The MDE is currently working with all assessment vendors to monitor and adjust the shipments of secure testing materials. 

Please package and ship all testing materials back to the respective vendors. This will include the ELPT to DRC, the ACT to ACT, Inc., and MAAP-A to Questar Assessments. We have asked our vendors to suspend the shipment of all MAAP materials to the districts. 

Please refer to the Test Coordinator’s Manual for instructions on how to package and return materials.  

If you have questions, you can email the MDE assessment coordinators using this site as a reference:  https://www.mdek12.org/OSA/Staff 

3. Is the state working with ACT to identify new dates for testing windows? 

 The MDE is currently in discussion with ACT regarding options for testing the remaining juniors who have not tested. 

4. Will ACT testing be rescheduled? Should students plan to test during the make-up window? 

The ACT administration for March 31 is cancelled. Please package and ship any materials received back to the ACT. The MDE is currently in discussion with ACT regarding options for testing the remaining juniors that have not tested.     

5. Will the MAAP window open this year? 

As of March 19, 2020, all Mississippi spring 2020 assessments have been cancelled. The MDE will work to adjust MDE policies around graduation requirements and provide information soon. 

6. How does the school closure affect state and federal accountability? 

The MDE will work closely with school system leadership, the Mississippi State Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to consider potential policy adjustments. 

7. Has the MDE submitted a waiver to the United States Department of Education for flexibility under ESSA? 

On March 20, 2020, the Mississippi Department of Education submitted an expedited waiver to the United States Department of Education (ED) to waive certain requirements in section 1111 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA) related to assessment and accountability requirements. Based on ED’s review of MDE’s request, it appears to meet all statutory requirements and, accordingly, ED intends to issue a formal approval of the MDE waiver request in the coming weeks. ED is allowing MDE to implement the waivers while ED processes the formal approval. 

8. Will schools and districts receive accountability measures this year? 

Due to the unique circumstances arising as a result of COVID-19, such as statewide school closures that have occurred during multiple testing windows, it is not feasible for the MDE to administer any of the required state or federal assessments for the 2019-20 school year. Therefore, the MDE will not have sufficient data to produce accountability determinations as required by state and federal law for the 2019-20 school year.  

On March 19, 2020, during its regularly scheduled meeting, the State Board of Education granted approval for districts and schools to maintain the same accountability designation in the 2020 – 2021 school year as assigned in the 2019-20 school year with no cumulative impact for cases where multiple years with the same designation may lead to a more severe consequences. 

9. How will school improvement designations be impacted? 

Schools and districts will retain the same designations for CSI, TSI, and ATSI from the 2018 – 2019 school year.  The three-year average performance used in identification would exclude the 2019-20 school year. 

10. How will growth be calculated for accountability next year if there are no assessments this year? 

The MDE will work with the Accountability Task Force to determine appropriate adjustments to accountability measures for the 2020-2021 school year and future school years due to this disruption.  The MDE is already working with national experts and the United States Department of Education to work through this disruption in accountability and to chart a path forward. 

Distance Learning

Many districts have requested additional guidance regarding the feasibility and legality of providing online learning in the event of an extended school closure. For districts considering a transition to online delivery, the following should be taken into consideration. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Ensuring all students in the school or district will have equal access to the learning and required materials, including technology. 

  • Ensuring the online learning system can effectively support the district’s different learning and teaching needs, including the ability to provide differentiated instruction as well as one-on-one support for students who need it. Regardless of where the learning is happening, supports identified on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be provided if the district is operating. 

  • Ensuring students can access the assessments associated with dual credit coursework. 

  • Ensuring the systems in use are secure and will not allow for the release of protected student or staff information. 

  • The ability to provide school meals. 

Taking a traditional school environment online is not a simple task – nor is it one that should be attempted without serious consideration of the practicality and risk.  

The MDE is not directing districts that they must transition to delivery of all content online, as we recognize that online access and remote support for rural students and students with disabilities will certainly pose equity issues across the state. Districts need to consider how they can help facilitate continued learning within homes across the state – either through online opportunities or by making grade-level instructional packets, Family Success Guides, or other resources available for pick-up at school or various locations within the district. Packet delivery could take place in conjunction with lunch pick-ups or via bus routes deployed to deliver meals. MDE staff are working on short, informal video lessons that may be helpful to families, and we have met with Mississippi Public Broadcasting to adjust daytime programming for elementary, middle, and high school students in the coming weeks. 
 
The MDE recognizes and appreciates that districts are taking different approaches depending on their local capacity and infrastructure during this closure, and the MDE recognizes that parents across the state are now trying to balance additional day-to-day stress and responsibility. MDE is pursuing flexibility within existing laws and policies regarding instructional time, graduation requirements, attendance, assessment and accountability. Ultimately, districts need to focus on the health and safety of their communities and support continued learning by our students. 

The MDE Learning-At-Home Resources for Districts webpage contains materials and tools that may be used to provide additional resources to parents or students. This information is only intended to be a general summary of information provided to the public. The resources in the COVID19_Guidance for Districts document may be helpful to districts and teachers looking for off-site learning opportunities during an extended school closure. 

Digital Access Continuum for Distance Learning 
 
The MDE created this Digital Access Continuum infographic to show the approaches districts could take to support distance learning based on their capacity to reach students. Distance learning looks different from district to district, and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Districts are encouraged to consider all feasible options to help students continue learning at home. 

 

Educational Stability for Students in Foster Care

1. Who can enroll students in placed in foster care?  

A student in foster care can be enrolled by a MDCPS representative (i.e., case worker, educational liaison or an individual with MDCPS foster parent verification). 

2. Is there any guidance for students in foster care during school closure?  

It is recommended that the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and foster parents follow guidance provided by the district.   

3. Are Local Education Agency’s (LEA) Foster Care Points of Contact (POC) required to continue collaborating with Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services to assist with the Best Interest Determination (BID) Process and with school enrollment for foster care students?  

LEA Foster Care POCs must ensure their contact information is easily accessible to the Mississippi Department of Education staff and/or foster parents to ensure compliance with federal guidelines as it relates to immediate enrollment.  The district may need to revise the POC’s contact number on the district’s website. 

4. Is a Local Education Agency (LEA) required to have separate procedures for foster care students to receive class work during school closures?  

No, LEAs are not required to have separate guidelines for students in foster care.  Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and foster parents will need to follow guidance provided by the district. 

5. How will students in foster care placement receive educational assignments?  

Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and/or foster parents will need to follow guidance provided by the district to all students.  

6. Is there an expectation that school districts will operate in the same manner as prior to school closures?  

There is no expectation of school districts to operate in the same manner as prior to school closures. Gov. Reeves declared a “State of Emergency” closing all schools until April 17, 2020. Therefore, each district has devised a plan including resources for families and students.  Please check with district’s foster care POC or the district’s website for further guidance. 

Educational Services for Students Placed in a Youth Detention Center

How will educational services be provided to students detained in youth detention centers?  

Sponsoring schools should follow the guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), state, and local health departments. It is recommended that educational staff consult with youth detention center officials to determine the level, if any, of in-cell educational services. Education packets are an option if detention officials will accept them. Ensure there is a process in place to determine if students with disabilities are detained, and follow the guidelines provided by the MDE Office of Special Education. Sponsoring school districts may want to ensure that youth detention center officials have the various educational resources that have provided to families.

 

Educator Effectiveness

1. With school closures due to COVID-19, is there consideration being given to suspending the rules under Process Standard 3: The school district implements an annual, formal personnel appraisal system for licensed staff that includes assessment of employee on-the-job performance. 

On March 26, 2020 during its Special Called Meeting, the Mississippi State Board of Education granted approval to suspend the requirement for districts to submit annual employee performance data for the 2019-20 school year via Sharepoint; however, districts may choose to submit available Professional Growth System (PGS) data to MDE. 

The suspension will remove sanctions for districts failing to adhere to the reporting guidelines of the Educator and Administrator Professional Appraisal System for the 2019-20 school year.   

Districts will not be required to attend the MDE approved PGS training for the 2019-20 school year. It is recommended that districts attend future PGS training in preparation for the upcoming school years in which Process Standard 3 is reinstated. 

 

Educator Licensure 

1. With the closure of test centers due to COVID-19, is there consideration being given to suspending the Educator Preparation Program Entry testing requirements? 

On March 26, 2020 during its Special Called Meeting, the Mississippi State Board of Education granted approval to the MDE to suspend the educator preparation program entry testing criterion only, for all candidates seeking admission to a Mississippi State Board of Education approved traditional or nontraditional educator preparation program on or before December 31, 2021. 

Individuals seeking admission to a nontraditional educator preparation program only, shall be required to meet one (1) of the following measures of subject matter competency at the time of admittance:  

Holds at least a bachelor’s degree in the endorsement area in which the license is being sought from an institution of higher education that was regionally/nationally accredited at the time the degree was conferred;   

OR  

Holds at least a bachelor’s degree in any area and eighteen (18) hours of undergraduate and/or graduate level coursework with a grade of “C” or higher in the endorsement area in which the license is sought. Both the degree(s) and the eighteen (18) hours of undergraduate and/or graduate level coursework must have been earned from an institution of higher education that was regionally/nationally accredited at the time the degree was conferred. Remedial courses (also referred to as compensatory, developmental, or basic skills) will not be recognized for certification purposes and are usually numbered below 100 on the transcript (Elementary Education is not included under this option);  

OR  

Holds at least a bachelor’s degree in any area from an institution of higher education that was regionally/nationally accredited at the time the degree was conferred and a passing score on the appropriate Mississippi State Board of Education approved licensure Subject Area Assessment in the endorsement area in which the license is requested.  

Beginning January 1, 2022 and thereafter, applicants seeking program admission shall meet all requirements in effect on the date the complete application is received by the Mississippi State Board of Education approved educator preparation program provider.   

Note of Clarification:  The educator preparation program entry/admission testing requirement is the only requirement for admission that has been suspended.  This includes Twenty-one (21) ACT equivalent and Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators examinations.  Grade Point Average (GPA) and all other criteria for program admission remain in effect.  

2. With the closure of test centers due to COVID-19, is there consideration being given to suspending Educator and Administrator Licensure testing requirements?   

On March 26, 2020 during its Special Called Meeting, the Mississippi State Board of Education granted approval to the MDE to suspend the licensure testing criterion only, for all complete applications received in the MDE Division of Educator Licensure on or before December 31, 2021 for Five-Year Standard Licenses sought by way of the completion of an approved traditional or nontraditional educator or administrator preparation program as defined by the Mississippi State Board of Education.  

Please note that applicants seeking the three-year internship license or five-year standard license by way of the completion of the respective appropriate components of a nontraditional educator preparation program only, shall have met one (1) of the following measures of subject matter competency at the time of program admittance:  

Holds at least a bachelor’s degree in the endorsement area in which the license is being sought from an institution of higher education that was regionally/nationally accredited at the time the degree was conferred; 

OR  

Holds at least a bachelor’s degree in any area and eighteen (18) hours of undergraduate and/or graduate level coursework with a grade of “C” or higher in the endorsement area in which the license is sought. Both the degree(s) and the eighteen (18) hours of undergraduate and/or graduate level coursework must have been earned from an institution of higher education that was regionally/nationally accredited at the time the degree was conferred. Remedial courses (also referred to as compensatory, developmental, or basic skills) will not be recognized for certification purposes and are usually numbered below 100 on the transcript (Elementary Education is not included under this option);  

OR  

Holds at least a bachelor’s degree in any area from an institution of higher education that was regionally/nationally accredited at the time the degree was conferred and a passing score on the appropriate Mississippi State Board of Education approved licensure Subject Area Assessment in the endorsement area in which the license is requested. 

Beginning January 1, 2022 and thereafter, applicants for licensure shall meet all requirements in effect on the date the complete application is received in the MDE Division of Educator Licensure.   

3. With the MDE’s and local school districts’, as appropriate, inability to ensure equitable access to high-quality professional learning opportunities for all educators and administrators for the purpose of meeting State Board of Education Licensure Renewal Requirements due to COVID-19, is there consideration being given to suspending Educator and Administrator Licensure Renewal requirements for licenses scheduled to expire June 30, 2020? 

On March 26, 2020 during its Special Called Meeting, the Mississippi State Board of Education granted approval to the MDE to suspend the renewal requirements for those who hold licenses that are set to expire on June 30, 2020 and grant a one-year extension for all license types with a current valid expiration date of June 30, 2020. Qualifying licenses will be dated to expire June 30, 2021.  

Beginning July 1, 2021 and thereafter, applicants for licensure renewal shall meet all requirements in effect on the date the complete application is received in the MDE Division of Educator Licensure.  

The request is due in part to the MDE’s and local school districts’, as appropriate, inability to ensure equitable access to high-quality professional learning opportunities for all educators and administrators for the purpose of meeting State Board of Education licensure renewal requirements. 

Note of Clarification and Licensure Application Process: 

Those educators and administrators who hold a Mississippi license of any type with a current valid expiration date of June 30, 2020 are eligible to receive a one-year extension. Qualifying licenses will be dated to expire June 30, 2021.  Please note that the extension of local district requested license types (i.e. Special, Non-renewable, Emergency Certificate for Veteran Teachers, Expert Citizen…) would have to be requested by the employing local school district or eligible nonpublic school.   

Application Process for Requesting the COVID-19 Extension of All License Types Except Local District Requested Licenses: 

To receive the extension for licenses other than those that are requested by a local school district or eligible nonpublic school, the educator or administrator must complete the paper application located via the web link below and under the “Licensure Request” section of the licensure application, select COVID-19 Extension and All Other License Types.   

www.mdek12.org/OEL/Forms  

All original documents to be used as part of the licensure application review process must be scanned, and then uploaded to your ELMS account as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Uploaded images and screenshots/photographs of documents including documents submitted using business applications such as CamScanner, Office Lens, or equivalent applications will not be accepted.         

Application Process for Requesting the COVID-19 Extension of Local District Requested Licenses: 

Role of Applicant:  Applicant requesting an extension of a local district requested license must also complete the paper application located via the web link below and under the “Licensure Request” section of the licensure application, select COVID-19 Extension and Local District Requested License and list the name of the local district or eligible nonpublic school that has requested a special license on your behalf.  

www.mdek12.org/OEL/Forms 

All original documents to be used as part of the licensure application review process must be scanned, and then uploaded to your ELMS account as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Uploaded images and screenshots/photographs of documents including documents submitted using business applications such as CamScanner, Office Lens, or equivalent applications will not be accepted.         

Role of Requesting Local School District or Eligible Nonpublic School: Local school district or eligible nonpublic school must complete a special short form COVID-19 one (1) page extension request application which will be posted to “forms” page of the licensure section of the MDE website by no later than 5:00 PM Friday, April 3, 2020.  The completed application must be scanned as a PDF and uploaded into your respective district portal of the Educator Licensure Management System (ELMS).    

www.mdek12.org/OEL/Forms 

All original documents to be used as part of the licensure application review process must be scanned, and then uploaded to your ELMS account as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Uploaded images and screenshots/photographs of documents including documents submitted using business applications such as CamScanner, Office Lens, or equivalent applications will not be accepted.         

4. With the closure of test centers due to COVID-19, is there consideration being given to suspending Educator Licensure Reciprocity testing requirements? 

On March 26, 2020 during its Special-Called Meeting, the Mississippi State Board of Education granted approval to the MDE to suspend the licensure testing criterion only for all complete applications for Five-Year Standard Reciprocity received in the MDE Division of Educator Licensure on or before December 31, 2021.  

Beginning January 1, 2022 and thereafter, applicants for reciprocity shall meet all requirements in effect on the date the complete application is received in the MDE Division of Educator Licensure. 

5. In order for an educator to apply for licensure extension for one year, does the educator have to have transcripts for both graduate and undergraduate just to extend for one year or just email the application? 

Application Process for Requesting the COVID-19 Extension of All License Types Except Local District Requested Licenses:  

To receive the extension for licenses other than those that are requested by a local school district or eligible nonpublic school, the educator or administrator must complete the paper application located via the web link below. Under the “Licensure Request” section of the licensure application, select COVID-19 Extension and All Other License Types: www.mdek12.org/OEL/Forms   

All original documents to be used as part of the licensure application review process must be scanned, and then uploaded to your ELMS account as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Uploaded images and screenshots/photographs of documents including documents submitted using business applications such as CamScanner, Office Lens, or equivalent applications will not be accepted. 

6. I have 5 CEUs and I am registered to take a week class in June to get my other 5 CEUs. My license goes out at the end of June. What will happen if I am not able to attend these classes? Will MDE extend these licenses for another year in order to complete the classes to renew my license. 

Application Process for Requesting the COVID-19 Extension of All License Types Except Local District Requested Licenses:  

To receive the extension for licenses other than those that are requested by a local school district or eligible nonpublic school, the educator or administrator must complete the paper application located via the web link below. Under the “Licensure Request” section of the licensure application, select COVID-19 Extension and All Other License Types: www.mdek12.org/OEL/Forms   

All original documents to be used as part of the licensure application review process must be scanned, and then uploaded to your ELMS account as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. Uploaded images and screenshots/photographs of documents including documents submitted using business applications such as CamScanner, Office Lens, or equivalent applications will not be accepted. 

 

 

Educator Preparation

1. For the spring of 2020, acknowledging school closures based on COVID-19, will there be accommodations made regarding the minimum number of weeks of student teaching required for program completion?   

On March 26, 2020 during its Special-Called Meeting, the Mississippi State Board of Education granted approval to the MDE to issue a one-year suspension of the requirement that students shall successfully complete a minimum of 12 weeks of full day student teaching for program completion for spring 2020 prospective program completers, by allowing candidates’ virtual experiences to be acceptable for a portion of the minimum 12 weeks of the required student teaching. The MDE will continue to work collaboratively with Education Preparation Providers (EPPs) to determine the acceptable experiences necessary for student teaching and demonstration of teaching competency prior to licensure. 

 

2. May universities recommend undergraduate candidates for certification if the candidates were unable to complete student teaching hours or the yearlong residency? 

Yes. If school or university closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak prevent undergraduate candidates from completing the required number of student teaching hours, universities may recommend candidates for certification so long as they have successfully completed their courses. Each university will have its own policy relative to successful completion of courses during this time.

 

Federal Programs

1. With schools and businesses closing, will we continue to be reimbursed our Federal Funds once we resume? 

We have not been notified by ED of any pause in reimbursements. 

2. Will funds be frozen?  

We do not anticipate a change with districts receiving funds. 

3. Districts that have been scheduled for monitoring, still receive a monitoring visit? 

Monitoring for ESSA programs will be paused until LEAs are open and operational. The Office of Federal Programs staff members are working from home and following up with LEAs regarding outstanding corrective actions. If you are unable to respond because you are away from the office, we asked that you please do so once LEAs are open and operational.  

I have purchased Chromebooks using Title I funds. I have never allowed these to be taken off campus for several reasons, i.e., increased risk of being lost or stolen, damaged, not returned, etc.)  Under the current circumstances would it be allowable to for a student to be issued one of these devices to use.  We are not doing anything new all students are going to do will be enrichment or remediation type activities which could just as easily be done with pencil and paper. 

Distance learning is certainly allowable; we just asked that the district follow the policy/procedure regarding equipment checkout. If the district does not have any policy/procedure regarding equipment checkout, especially for students, then we would recommend having some type of written documents as evidence of equipment check-out.

 

21st Century Community Learning Centers

1. We are planning alternative ways to engage our scholars due to the school closings, are we allowed to still provide STEM enrichment virtually?  If so, can we pay our afterschool staff for providing STEM instructions online via webinars?   

Afterschool program staff may continue to be paid with 21st CCLC grant funds, for work including remote work at the discretion of the supervisory leadership in service to your local 21st CCLC projects.  Hours worked should remain commensurate to the need. Also, documentation of all 21st CCLC program related activities must be maintained and provided upon MDE’s request. In addition, Federal Supplement not Supplant provisions remain in force. 

Allowable work includes: 

  • Virtual staff meetings (conference calls, Zoom meetings, Skype, etc.) 

  • 21st CCLC Curriculum work 

  • 21st CCLC Lesson plan development  

  • 21st CCLC program data entry/validation 

  • Online professional development 

  • Systems planning work (e.g., summer programs, evaluation, sustainability, safety, budgeting) 

  • On-line programming for youth that may be reasonable and necessary 

  • Other expectations and associated job tasks listed in job descriptions that are reasonable and necessary during the closure period 

21st CCLC Grantees are to request permission in writing to participate in the allowable work activities above. All requests should be submitted via email to Chris Norwood, 21st CCLC Coordinator, at crnorwood@mdek12.org.

 

Graduation Requirements and Earning High School Credits (Carnegie Units)

1. Will seniors be able to graduate in 2020?

Current seniors who meet all district and state requirements may graduate this school year. The requirement that students take end-of-course assessments in Algebra I, English II, Biology and U.S. History has been suspended for seniors because these assessments cannot be administered in spring 2020. Statewide, students are required to earn a minimum of 24 Carnegie units to graduate.  

2. If state and federal assessments are not being administered, how will students meet graduation requirements? 

Any student grades 7 through 12 enrolled in school during the 2019 – 2020 school year as of March 16, 2020, the first date of school closures due to COVID-19, that has passed the Algebra I, Biology, English II, and/or U.S. History course(s), but has not passed the corresponding EOC subject area test(s) or met one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the test(s), will be allowed to graduate, if all other state and local graduation requirements have been met. 

See backup material (item 1) from the March 26, 2020 meeting of the State Board of Education for details regarding graduation requirements (Process Standard 14) for students impacted by the suspension of state and federal assessments due to the COVID-19 school closures. 

3. What students are exempt from ever having to take or pass the Algebra I, Biology, English II and/or U. S. History end of course assessment(s)? 

Answers (please read each one) 

  1. Any student grades 7 through 12 that is enrolled in Algebra I, Biology, English II and/or U. S. History during the 2019 – 2020 school year and earns the Carnegie Unit credit will not be required to take and/or pass the corresponding EOC subject area test(s) or meet one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the test(s) in order to meet the graduation requirements regardless of their expected graduation date/year. 

    Clarification: The student will need to have earned the Carnegie unit credit prior to the end of the 2019 – 2020 school year before the summer MSIS data submission deadline. If the Carnegie unit for the course is not earned by the end of the Spring 2020 semester or prior to the summer MSIS data submission deadline through credit recovery, extended school year, and/or summer school, etc., this rule suspension will not apply. 

  2. Any student grades 7 through 12 enrolled in school during the 2019 – 2020 school year as of March 16, 2020, the first date of school closures due to COVID-19, that has passed (earned the Carnegie Unit credit) the Algebra I, Biology, English II, and/or U.S. History course(s) prior to or during the 2019 – 2020 school year, but has not passed  the corresponding EOC subject area test(s) or met one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the test(s), will be allowed to graduate, if all other state and local graduation requirements have been met regardless of their expected graduation date/year. These students are typically referred to as “retesters”.  

  3. Any student in grades 7 through 12 who took a Fall 2019 EOC assessment as a first-time test taker (4x4 districts) and failed the corresponding EOC assessment will not be required to re-take the corresponding EOC assessment or meet one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the test(s), in any future school year to meet graduation requirements regardless of their expected graduation date/year. 

  4. Any student enrolled in Algebra I, Biology, English II, or U.S. History in the 2019 – 2020 school year who fails the course (does not earn the Carnegie Unit credit) in the 2019 – 2020 school year and must repeat the course in the 2020 – 2021 school year (or thereafter) to earn the Carnegie Unit credit will be required to pass the corresponding EOC assessment or meet one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the assessment as outlined in Appendix A-5.   

  1. Any student currently enrolled in school in the 2019 – 2020 school year who earned a Carnegie Unit credit in Algebra I, Biology, English II or U.S. History in a school year prior to 2019 – 2020, but took the assessment as a first time test taker in the Fall 2019 or was planning to take the assessment as a first-time test taker in Spring 2020 will not be required to take and/or pass the EOC assessment or meet one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the assessment when school reconvenes regardless of their expected graduation date/year. 

  1. The composite score option outlined in Appendix A-5 will not be available to students who do not have four (4) EOC subject area test scores. 

  1. Students who are not currently enrolled in the 2019 – 2020 school year, but are still attempting to meet the graduation requirements through re-test opportunities will be required to pass the EOC assessment or meet one (1) of the options in lieu of passing the assessment as outlined in Appendix A-5. 

4. How are Carnegie units addressed under minutes requirements? Will Carnegie credit be awarded by grade only? 

The MDE is suspending the requirement of the minimum of 140 hours of instruction required for each Carnegie unit of credit offered and 70 hours for each one-half (½) unit offered. School districts shall determine a process for awarding a Carnegie unit credit for courses that are incomplete for school year 2019-20. Carnegie units shall not be granted for courses where the student was never enrolled during the 2019-20 school year.  Districts may not enroll a student in a Carnegie unit bearing course after March 16, 2020, the first date of school closures due to COVID-19, for the sole purpose of awarding a Carnegie unit credit, unless one (1) of the following conditions are met:  

  1. the district is on a 4x4 block schedule and the student is taking a one-half (½) credit course, or  
  1. the student is enrolling in an approved online course through Mississippi Online Course Approval (MOCA) with the expectation that the student will complete the course by the end of the Spring 2020 semester. 

The conditions outlined above are not applicable to transfer students enrolling in a school district on or after March 16, 2020. 

Based on approved school board policy, local school districts have the authority to issue a standard high school diploma to any student who meets the minimum graduation requirements as approved by the State Board of Education. See Appendix A in Mississippi Public School Accountability Standards, 2019. 

5. Will students still have to meet the Carnegie Unit credit requirements outlined in Process Standard 14.1 and the Appendices of the Mississippi Public School Accountability Standards, 2019? 

Due to the impact of school closures related to COVID-19, the MDE will suspend citations associated with changing local school board graduation requirements mid-year. The local school board has the authority to suspend and/or amend the graduation requirements set forth by the local school board for the 2019-2020 school year. In no circumstance shall a student be allowed to graduate with less than the minimum number of Carnegie units set forth by the State Board of Education and outlined in Appendix A. 

Clarification:  Local districts may establish additional local requirements approved by the local school board as authorized under Miss. Code Ann. § 37-16-7.  Local districts have the option of granting high school diplomas as outlined in Appendices A-1, A-2, A-3, and A-4.  The waivers granted by the State Board of Education allow districts to amend or establish local board policy to waive additional requirements above the state minimum and allow students to graduate using the minimum requirements outlined in Appendices A-1, A-2, A-3, and A-4. 

6. Will students who began the 2019-20 school year as an 11th grader but chose the Appendix A-1 option to graduate and were on track to graduate in May fall into the same category as the seniors who were on track to graduate in May? 

Any student grades 7 through 12 enrolled in school during the 2019 – 2020 school year as of March 16, 2020, the first date of school closures due to COVID-19, who has passed (earned the Carnegie Unit credit) the Algebra I, Biology, English II, and/or U.S. History course(s) prior to or during the 2019 – 2020 school year, but has not passed the corresponding EOC subject area test(s) or met one of the options in lieu of passing the test(s), will be allowed to graduate, if all other state and local graduation requirements have been met regardless of their expected graduation date/year. The Appendix A-1 option ends with 9th graders of 2017-18. 

Guidance About Personal Protection and Hygiene

  • Basic infection control in school settings should always be promoted and maintained.
  • Hand hygiene - Students and staff should be encouraged to wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing. If soap and water is unavailable, sanitizers may be used.
    Kids Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJG72sycQB8
    Printable: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/campaign.html
     
  • Respiratory etiquette - MSDH and CDC recommend covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or a shirt sleeve or elbow if no tissue is available) and throwing the tissue in the trash after use, followed by hand washing.
    Kids Video: https://youtu.be/mQINuSTP1jI
    Printable: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/protect/cdc_cough.pdf
     
  • Routine Cleaning - School staff should routinely clean areas that students and staff touch often with the cleaners they typically use. Cleaning should take place immediately if there is contamination of surfaces with blood, stool or vomit.  CDC recommends personal protective equipment as part of universal precautions when cleaning body fluid spills.
    CDC Instructions: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/cleaning.htm
     
  • Separate ill students and staff - Students and staff who seem to have flu symptoms should be separated from others until they can be sent home. CDC recommends personal protective equipment as part of universal precautions when caring for infected individuals.
     
  • Stay home when sick - Those with flu like symptoms, including respiratory symptoms, should stay home from work or school and seek medical attention if the symptoms get worse. This includes uncontrolled temperature, difficulty breathing, worsening headache, unusual muscle weakness or seizure activity. Remain home until fever has been gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications.
     
  • Responding to Viruses in Schools
     
  • Lesson Plans for Dealing with Communicable Diseases

Intervention Services

1. Should we conduct our teacher support team meetings during this time?  

No, these meetings can be rescheduled for when students return to school. 

2. What intervention support should be provided to students receiving Tier II or Tier III supports?  

During this time districts are encouraged to send home online access to any intervention programs that students are utilizing at school. They are also encouraged to send home any reading materials that can be used to reinforce interventions that the student received before the break. The reading materials should be on their reading level so as not cause frustration for the student. 

3. Will there be an extension for the kindergarten dyslexia screener due to the students being out of school?  

Due to the schools being closed, the kindergarten dyslexia screener will be waived for this school year. If you have already completed the kindergarten screener, please submit that data.

 

Learning-at-Home Resources for Families

The resources on the Learning-at-Home pages are designed to provide supplementary learning materials for when students are out of school for extended time.

 

MSIS and OTSS Support

Monthly MSIS Student Data 

  • All districts will continue to submit their monthly student data to MSIS.  Because schools are currently closed, OTSS will open the Month 7 Student Data Submission window on March 18th for early submission, but the deadline to complete Month 7 will remain April 10th. 

MSIS and the District Events Calendar 

  • For reporting of any days of closure due the ongoing state of emergency, please use the code “COVID-19”. 

Recording Attendance  

  • For every instructional calendar day throughout the governor-declared state of emergency, all students should be marked as “present”. 

OTSS Support 

  • If districts have MSIS questions or require MSIS support, please send an email to mdeapps@mdek12.org and please include a contact number.  An OTSS staff member will respond. 

  • If districts have SharePoint questions or require SharePoint support (e.g., I cannot log in, I need help uploading a file), please send an email to mdenet@mdek12.org and please include a contact number. An OTSS staff member will respond. 

E-Rate Form 471 Deadline 

  • The FCC sent a notification to USAC to extend the Form 471 window until April 29, 2020.  All forms must be submitted by 11:59pm EDT (10:59pm CDT).  This gives you an additional 35 days to submit your Form 471. 

School Closures

1. What's the possibly of returning to school in the 2019-20 school year? 

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MDHS) continue to closely monitor the outbreak of COVID-19. Based on the information provided, Gov. Tate Reeves is working to keep all Mississippians informed and healthy. If necessary, an extension of school closures beyond April 17 will be determined by Gov. Reeves. The MDE will continue to provide the most current information related to school closures on our webpage.

Background:

  • Gov. Tate Reeves issued an Executive Order directing all Mississippi schools to close through April 17, 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus). He said schools will continue to receive funding, and teachers and school staff will continue to be paid. Gov. Reeves said he will relax end-of-year testing requirements and school accountability measures and give the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) maximum flexibility to waive rules. 
  • Local school districts are responsible for deciding whether staff report to school facilities.
  • CDC considerations for school closure
  • Districts must report school closures immediately to MDE by emailing mdeschoolclosures@mdek12.org.
  • School Closure Tracker

 

School Improvement

1. What is the expectation for presentation of the Monthly Update for schools identified as Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI), Additional Targeted and Support and Improvement (ATSI), and Schools At Risk (SAR)? 

The required components of the Monthly Update template cannot be addressed during the period of school closure established by the Governor’s Executive Order.  Therefore, monthly updates during the local school board meeting (virtual or in person) are waived until districts and schools return to normal operations.  

2. If an LEA was scheduled to be monitored during the months of March, April, or May, will the monitoring proceed as planned? 

Monitoring is a required process for sub-recipients of Title I School Improvement (1003) and competitively awarded School Improvement Grants (SIG).  Therefore, monitoring is postponed until additional guidance is available following districts and schools return to normal operations. 

3. If an LEA wants to know the status of its MCAPS school improvement application or revision, who will the district contact during the time the MDE is working remotely? 

Federal Programs directors should contact A’Lisa Bryant at abryant@mdek12.org or Re’Nona Jackson rjackson@mdek12.org.  Your questions will be routed to the appropriate contact.  In addition, district MCAPS personnel will continue to be updated through the MCAPS notification system when changes have been made to the district’s school improvement application. 

4. If an LEA who implements a School Improvement Grant (SIG) 1003g wants to submit or know the status of a school’s revision, has specific questions on grant implementation or established deadlines, who will the district contact during the time the MDE is working remotely? 

The School Improvement Grant (SIG) Officer should contact Shakinna Patterson at  spatterson@mdek12.org.&

 

School Nutrition Program Meal Service

  • MDE has received approval from USDA for schools eligible for the Summer Food Service Schools may serve non-congregate meals, such as grab and go meals, during the Coronavirus emergency. The OCN has implemented an expedited approval process to allow schools to begin serving meals as quickly as possible. A list of schools serving meals and other information may be found here: www.mdek12.org/OCN
  • It is at the discretion of each school district whether to serve meals while schools are closed. Districts may choose which schools will serve meals, what meal types will be served, and the times of meal service. Parents should check with their local district for the most current information about meals in their area.
  • The MDE is in constant communication with schools, USDA, and other stakeholders regarding providing nutritious meals to MS children during this emergency. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

School Nutrition Program Meal Service FAQ 

1.    May schools serve meals during closures related to the Coronavirus? 

Yes. In anticipation of school closures, the MDE Office of Child Nutrition (OCN) has secured two waivers from the USDA. These waivers allow all schools to serve meals to students during an unanticipated school closure through provisions of the Summer Food Service (SFSP) 

2.    Is it mandatory that meals be provided during a school closure? 

No. However, SFAs are encouraged to support the needs of MS children, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, as there may be limited access to food during extended periods of school closure. 

3.    How do schools apply to serve meals during closures related to the Coronavirus? 

The OCN has implemented an expedited two step approval process to allow schools to begin serving meals as quickly as possible. 

Before serving meals, the School Food Authority (SFA) must complete Step 1 of the Unanticipated School Closure approval process, details may be found here: www.mdek12.org/OCN 

Step 2, completion of the full agreement in MARS, will occur when all initial requests have been processed. SFAs may begin the MARS application process immediately if they choose. 

4.       May schools serve grab-and-go meals? 

Yes, Schools may serve non-congregate meals, such as grab and go meals, during the Coronavirus emergency.  The United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has waived the requirement at 7 CFR 225.6(e)(15) that meals be served and consumed in a congregate setting, in order to support any social distancing requested by Federal, State, or local authorities. 

5.    Can a school with less than 50 percent (50%) free and reduced-price eligibility participate? 

Yes, for dismissed schools with less than 50% free or reduced enrollment, meal distribution methods must more directly target the households of enrolled children who are eligible for free or reduced priced meals. It is recommended to use a roster or take children’s names of enrolled students when they receive a meal(s). As much as possible, continue with standard POS practices.   

6.    How can a school with less than 50 percent (50%) free and reduced-price eligibility target economically disadvantaged children without overtly identifying those children as eligible for free or reduced-price meals? 

This will depend in large part on how SFAs intend to provide meals and should be described in the method of meal distribution on From B. For example, meal distribution sites might be located in areas that are easily accessible to low-income children while avoiding identification of individual children as low income. Bus routes may be implemented in lower income areas. Reminders that free meals are available during the school closure may be sent to the parents of all F/R eligible students.   

Reminder: Requests to operate sites 50 percent (50%) free and reduced-price eligibility must be approved by OCN before meals are served.  

7.    What are the requirements for the meals? 

The meals must meet the regular menu planning requirements of the SFSP.  Offer versus serve (OVS) will not apply and all meals must be unitized, meaning a complete reimbursable meal that meets the requirements of the menu planning method used, including milk, must be distributed. Shelf-stable milk may be used. USDA commodity foods may also be used. If availability of milk or other meal components becomes an issue, contact Bill Urban burban@mdek12.org OCN will work with USDA for possible waivers or other flexibilities should food availability become an issue.      

8.    How many meals per child may be offered each day? May supper be provided?  

The maximum number of meals that may be offered remains the same as under the SFSP: up to two (2) meals, or one (1) meal and one (1) snack, per child, per day, in any combination except lunch and supper for open or closed enrolled sites. SFAs/Sponsors may serve breakfast, lunch, snack or supper in any combination except lunch and supper. 

9.    Can meals be distributed for more than one day?  

OCN may approve a distribution approach that includes meals for multiple days per week. OCN will consider the capacity of the SFAs to execute such an approach effectively, including meeting food safety requirements. Such distribution requires prior approval, in writing, by OCN. 

10. What distribution methods are envisioned for Coronavirus (COVID-19) meal service, and what logistical issues should be considered?    

We anticipate meal distribution methods will involve pick up or delivery models in order to meet the need for social distancing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) unanticipated school closures. If employing a method other than Grab and Go, delivery methods must be documented in the SFA’s Unanticipated School Closure Form B: https://www.mdek12.org/OCN 

Options may include using a vehicle to deliver meals based on the usual bus route, drive-thru windows or stations, and other options that support the service of safe and wholesome reimbursable meals to students. 

11.  Are transportation costs eligible for reimbursement in the event that school systems decide to deliver meals? 

No, there is no mechanism for reimbursement of transportation costs. While an allowable expense for the SFSP, funds available for transportation will be minimal after food, supplies, and labor costs. 

12. Can the LEA use school buses to deliver meals to students during unanticipated closure?  

Yes, LEAs may choose to use school buses to deliver meals to students during periods of unanticipated school closure. Please coordinate with your Superintendent and Transportation Director to ensure compliance with laws that govern the use of buses.  

13.  Is notification to households still required during this time?  

Yes. Schools must notify households of the availability of meals at specified sites and times through normal means (i.e. flyers posted at schools, school system websites, etc.). 

14. What are some suggested solutions for staffing sites during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) school closure?  

SFAs/Sponsors are encouraged to collaborate with a variety of school, civic, governmental and community organizations for help with serving eligible children. Some suggestions include Police and Fire Departments, hunger solution organizations, teachers, parents, and other volunteers. Basic food safety instructions and precautions should be provided to anyone who will assist with meal delivery.  

15. With the potential for school nutrition staff shortages, and the need for students to be fed, can other staff assist with prepping and serving meals? Volunteers, teachers, etc.? 

Yes, according to the Food Code, "Employee" means the PERMIT HOLDER, PERSON IN CHARGE, FOOD EMPLOYEE, PERSON having supervisory or management duties, PERSON on the payroll, family member, volunteer, PERSON performing work under contractual agreement, or other PERSON working in a FOOD ESTABLISHMENT. Reminder: only employees and volunteers directly involved in the production and distribution of meals will be eligible for “in-kind” meals.                                                                                                                                                        

It is prudent for the Person-in-Charge (PIC) to use the HACCP Plan new employee checklist or some other training tool with any volunteer employee to ensure some level of basic food safety instruction.

 

Special Education

Services for Students with Disabilities During School Closures

Questions and Answers for Districts
As new information is made available, the MDE Office of Special Education will post additional guidance to this Q&A list. New updates will be noted by date. 


March 17, 2020: Questions 1-8

1. Should a student with disabilities be receiving special education services during the school closures?

Based on guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special if the district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services to students with disabilities during the same time period.
 

2. If the LEA provides formalized educational services through online instruction to the general student population, would the LEA be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period? 

Yes. If a LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE. (34 CFR §§ 104.4, 104.33 (Section 504) and 28 CFR § 35.130 (Title II of the ADA)). SEAs, LEAs, and schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504. (34 CFR §§ 300.101 and 300.201 (IDEA), and 34 CFR § 104.33 (Section 504). It is important to note that if educational services are being delivered to students in any form, in order for the district to remain open, those services must be provided to all students, including students who don’t have access to technology at home and students receiving special education services.
 

3. How will special education services be provided during school closures?

If the district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services to students with disabilities during the same time period. However, the delivery of special education services will be determined by each local school district.
 

4. If an LEA determines that they want to provide special education services during the school closures, what should they do?

The student’s IEP Committee, or the personnel responsible for ensuring FAPE to a student for the purposes of IDEA, can be utilized to assist with the effort to determine if some, or all, of the identified services can be provided through alternate or additional methods. Accessible technology may afford students, including students with disabilities, an opportunity to have access to high-quality educational instruction during an extended school closure, especially when continuing education must be provided through distance learning. Many of the online learning options available to districts have accommodations embedded in lessons. Each student’s special education needs should be determined on an individual basis and outlined in the student’s IEP.

5. What will happen if a student is not able to receive certain special education services during school closures?

Based on the current circumstances and the highly individualized nature of special education services it is possible that in some cases it may be very difficult to fully implement a student’s IEP. If that is the case, IEP Committees should make every effort to meet and make any necessary revisions or additions to the student’s IEP.
 
Any need for compensatory services related to school closure or inability to fully implement a student’s IEP can be addressed after school resumes and should be addressed on a case-by- case basis. This might include discussions of compensatory education and extended school year (ESY) services, made on a case-by-case basis. When your district resumes standard operations, the district should collect student data to determine any student progression or regression on annual IEP goals. This data can be used to inform IEP Committee decisions and assist in compensatory service decisions.
 

6. What should I do if a student’s IEP will expire during school closures?

Districts should consider ways to use distance technology (e.g., Zoom, conference calls, Skype, etc.) to the extent possible to provide annual IEP meetings if staff and parents are available but not able to attend in person. If staff and/or parents are not available or believe their participation is impacted by the lack of an in-person meeting, districts should document the reason. IEP Committee meetings may take place while schools are closed as long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. Each student decision should be handled on a case-by-case issue. 
 

7. What should I do if a student had an evaluation/eligibility meeting that was scheduled during the school closure?

Districts should consider alternate ways to use virtual technology (e.g., Zoom, conference calls, Skype, etc.) to the extent possible to conduct meetings pertaining to evaluation if staff and parents are available but not able to attend in person. If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. IEP Committee members may contact parents to schedule virtual meetings while schools are closed. These same principles apply to similar activities conducted by appropriate personnel for a student with a disability who has a plan developed under Section 504, or who is being evaluated under Section 504.

8. How should districts communicate with parents concerning expiring timelines, annual, and individual IEP evaluations? 

Districts should communicate the expectation and plan to meet with IEP committees, including parents, virtually, to address student-specific needs resulting from the closure.

March 23, 2020: Questions 9-23

9. Are school districts required to hold an IEP meeting to revise IEPs to reflect a change in services if a district is unable to deliver those services during a school closure due to health and safety concerns?  
 
No. The MDE, OSE understands that the current circumstances will affect how special education and related services are provided, and flexibility will be provided when possible. An IEP Committee should not revise an IEP to remove services that are currently on the IEP solely because the district is unable to provide a particular service due to the circumstances created by school closures and social distancing. Where there has been an inevitable delay in providing services or even making decisions about how to provide services, IEP Committees must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume normal operations.  

10. Do you have you to amend the IEP to reflect a change in location of services?  
 
No. Online instruction or instruction delivered through supplemental activities is considered an alternate mode of instructional delivery. 

11. Do special education and related services have to be provided if the district is providing educational opportunities through supplemental activities to general education students?  
 
Yes. Districts must ensure the provision of equitable services to all students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. The determination of how FAPE is to be provided may need to be different in this time of unprecedented national emergency. For example, districts may choose to use “instructional check-ins” as a method of working with students and parents. However, all decisions must be made on an individual basis.  

12. Can special education and related services be delivered online or telephonically? 
 
Yes. The MDE, OSE understands that, during this time, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided. While some schools might choose to safely, and in accordance with state law, provide certain IEP services to some students in-person, it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some institutions, during current emergency school closures, to provide certain special education or related services that require hands-on instruction. However, many disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online. These may include, for instance, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing. Service delivery methods must be considered on the basis of individual student needs.  

13. How should districts address the provision of homebound services?  
 
Services should continue when possible without risking the health and safety of the student, student’s family, or service provider. It is understandable that there may be a delay in providing some services or even in making decisions about how to provide those services. The IEP Committee must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when school resumes normal operations. 

14. How should districts address the provision of itinerant services for 3 to 5-year olds?  
 
Services should continue when possible without risking the health and safety of the student, student’s family, or service provider. It is understandable that there may be a delay in providing some services or even in making decisions about how to provide those services. The IEP Committee must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when school resumes normal operations.  

15. Should districts continue to hold ESY meetings?  
 
Districts may continue to conduct ESY meetings virtually or by other methods. The deadline for ESY determinations has been extended. ESY determinations must be received 30 days after all schools resume normal operations. The MDE, OSE will be in communication regarding revised timelines due to the ESY determination extension.  

16. Will all students qualify for ESY based on the current COVID-19 extenuating circumstances?  
 
No. All ESY determinations must be made on an individual basis by each student’s IEP Committee. 

17. Will Educable Child contracts/applications be honored during this time?  
 
Yes. The district must be in communication with the private facility to determine continuation of services. The MDE, OSE will be in contact with districts regarding timelines and pay periods for Educable Child. Ed Child will continue to be funded based on the services provided by the private facility in accordance with the district and the private facility contract. The current process for new and established students will remain the same.  

18. When determining if a student requires compensatory services do those begin immediately or can ESY be utilized as compensatory services? What are some specific examples of compensatory services and how do we pay for these if we have limited resources?  
 
Upon resuming normal operations, the IEP Committee will determine the need for compensatory services on an individual basis. Information and recommendations regarding compensatory services will be forthcoming.  

19. May districts continue to submit FY 19 and FY 20 Revisions via MCAPS as needed?  
 
Yes. MDE OSE staff will continue to review and approve FY 19 and FY20 revisions throughout school closures 

20. How should districts complete the parent survey since IEP meetings are being held via alternate means?  
 
The link to the parent survey may be shared by the district with individual families via email. If the parent does not have access to the internet to complete the parent survey, then the survey may be completed once school resumes normal operations.  

21. If a MET meeting was previously scheduled and the LEA is now closed, will the timeline to conduct the meetings be waived?  
 
To the extent practicable, initial evaluation team reports must be completed within the 60-day mandated timeline as prescribed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Reviews of the evaluation team report can be completed using a virtual format or via telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented via email attachment, standard mail, scanned signature, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means. Due to health and safety concerns, if an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation will need to be delayed until the schools resume normal operations. Any delay in meeting timelines should be documented appropriately. Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place during school closure, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. These same principles apply to similar activities conducted by appropriate personnel for a student with a disability who has a plan developed under Section 504 or who is being evaluated under Section 504. As is the case with a typical re-evaluation, a district may choose to conduct a records review. This allows the district to update the evaluation without needing to conduct face-to-face assessments and observations. The method of conducting an evaluation team report review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice. 

 22. If the annual IEP review dates are required prior to school reopening, will there be a waiver of this timeline?  
 

IEP annual reviews may be completed virtually or via telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented via email attachment, standard mail, scanned document, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means, and the method of IEP team review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice form. If parents do not agree to conducting an annual IEP review via alternate forms of communication, the meeting may be delayed until an agreed upon time and location can be set once schools resume normal operations.  

23. What should a district do if online or distance learning has been assigned and a student does not have access to technology?  
 
It is up to each local district to determine how they will provide an alternate access path for students that do not have the technology to support virtual learning. However, equitable educational opportunities must be provided for all students.   

For additional information, please use the link below to view information from the U.S. Department of Education addressing the protection of student’s Civil Rights during the COVID-19 response: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USED/bulletins/2817fed

March 26, 2020: Questions 24-27

24. Can the Amendment process be used to revise IEPs?

Yes. IEP Committees may choose to revise IEPs via an amendment. The amendment process requires that all proposed revisions to the IEP be documented on the amendment form. Any revisions must be made with parent input. If the parent is not in agreement with the proposed change or does not choose to use the amendment process, then you must hold an IEP meeting. Once the revisions have been agreed upon by the IEP Committee the revisions must be documented on the IEP and a copy of the revised IEP should be given to the IEP Committee and the parents.

According to the March 21, 2020 guidance provided by OSEP:

Most importantly, in making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the parent of a child with a disability and the public agency may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP. 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(4)(i).

25. Do all required IEP Committee members need to participate in an IEP Committee meeting?

Yes. All required IEP Committee members must be present. Any revisions to the IEP should be made based on the decisions of the IEP Committee. If any IEP Committee members cannot be a part of the decision-making process, then the procedures for excusing IEP Committee members should be followed. (300.321)

26. What are Services?

Services are any special education or related services that are outlined on the IEP. This includes special education services such as specially designed instruction and related services, including, but not limited to, speech/language services, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

27. What does delivery of services of mean?

Delivery of services is the method by which services are provided to students. This may include but is not limited to 1:1 instruction, whole group instruction, and small group instruction, virtual or online education, teletherapy, distance instruction, or telephonically as well as online options for data tracking and documentation.

According to the March 21, 2020 guidance provided by OSEP:

Where technology itself imposes a barrier to access or where educational materials simply are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students.

Point of Clarification on Revising or Amending IEPs: Guidance provided by MDE OSE regarding the revision of IEPs due to the disruption in services caused by the COVID-19 Health Crisis is that services that cannot feasibly be provided due to the health and safety concerns not be revised/deleted on a student’s IEP. Services may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided through distance instruction provided virtually, online, or telephonically. If services can continue to be provided virtually, online, or telephonically, a revision to the IEP is not necessary.

According to the March 21, 2020 guidance provided by OSEP:

Where technology itself imposes a barrier to access or where educational materials simply are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students. For example, if a teacher who has a blind student in her class is working from home and cannot distribute a document accessible to that student, she can distribute to the rest of the class an inaccessible document and, if appropriate for the student, read the document over the phone to the blind student or provide the blind student with an audio recording of a reading of the document aloud. Consider practices such as distance instruction, teletherapy and tele-intervention, meetings held on digital platforms, online options for data tracking, and documentation. In addition, there are low- tech strategies that can provide for an exchange of curriculum-based resources, instructional packets, projects, and written assignments.

Just because services cannot be provided due to the current circumstances does not mean they are no longer necessary. Current services should remain on the IEP and will be used to help IEP Committees determine, if and to what extent compensatory services are necessary once schools resume normal operations. If an IEP Committee chooses to provide some type of intermediary service to students during school closures, such as consulting with parents or online services, the IEP Committee may convene an IEP meeting via technology or utilize the amendment process to add these services to the IEP.

According to the March 21, 2020 guidance provided by OSEP:

As a general principle, during this unprecedented national emergency, public agencies are encouraged to work with parents to reach mutually agreeable extensions of time, as appropriate. FAPE may be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing special education and related services to students. Where, due to the global pandemic and resulting closures of schools, there has been an inevitable delay in providing services – or even making decisions about how to provide services - IEP teams (as noted in the March 12, 2020 guidance) must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume normal operations.

 

Services for Students with Disabilities During School Closures
Questions and Answers for Parents: March 17, 2020

1. Should my child with disabilities be receiving special education services during the school closures? Based on guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education, if the district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services to students with disabilities during the same time period.
 

2. If the LEA provides formalized educational services through online instruction to the general student population, would the LEA be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period? Yes. If a Local Educational Agency (LEA) continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the delivery of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
 

3. How will special education services be provided to my child during school closures? If the district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services to students with disabilities during the same time period.
 

4. What will happen if my child is not able to receive certain special education services during school closures? Any need for compensatory services related to school closure or inability to fully implement a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be addressed after school resumes and should be addressed on a case-by- case basis. This might include discussions of compensatory education and extended school year (ESY) services, made on a case-by-case basis. When your district resumes standard operations, the district should collect student data to determine any student progression or regression on annual IEP goals. This data can be used to inform IEP Committee decisions and assist in compensatory service decisions.
 

5. What should I do if my child’s IEP will expire during school closures? Districts are currently considering alternate ways to use virtual technology (e.g., Zoom, conference calls, Skype, etc.) to the extent possible to provide annual IEP meetings if staff and parents are available but not able to attend in person. IEP Committee members may contact you to schedule meetings while schools are closed. These meetings can be hosted virtually as long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. Each student decision will be handled on a case-by-case issue. 
 

6. What should I do if my child had an evaluation/eligibility meeting that was scheduled during the school closure? Districts are currently considering alternate ways to use virtual technology (e.g., Zoom, conference calls, Skype, etc.) to the extent possible to conduct meetings pertaining to evaluation if staff and parents are available but not able to attend in person. If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents. IEP Committee members may contact you to schedule virtual meetings while schools are closed.
 

7. What will happen to my child’s services if school remains open, but my child is sick at home? Students who are sick and who need to stay home for more than 10 days may need to receive homebound instruction. The IEP committee must meet to determine how to provide services for your child. This may include schoolwork packets, virtual online instruction, or some other type of learning adapted to the student’s needs and location.

 

Student Enrollment

What is the protocol for enrolling or withdrawing students?  

Districts are still required to enroll and withdraw students based on current MDE and local board policies.  Parents seeking to enroll students should contact their local school district for specific details such as hours of operation and locations.

The district will need to enroll students if contacted, but the district will need to consider grading and credits awarded under district policy. For instance, if a student dropped out previously and wants to re-enroll to graduate now that an EOC test is not required, that may be a district concern. It is suggested that a Local Education (LEA) put enrollment procedures in place during this time. A LEA may consider providing an alternative method (phone) to temporarily enroll a student until further notice (the receipt of records once things are back to normal). A LEA does not have the authority to deny enrollment to a student unless there are federal provisions that would overrule our state law. As always, districts should consult with their local board attorney. 

 

Student Technology Support

1.How can we help students access computers? 

Schools need to review their current device policies to decide if students will be able to utilize school-owned student devices at home in order to continue learning opportunities.  

To address school system/school concerns relative to tracking and managing school devices off-campus, the MDE is working with Absolute Software to create a low-cost offering that will provide hardware tracking, monitoring, and reporting as well as investigating and recovering stolen/missing devices. Additional details will be provided to the school system technology directors   

2. What resources are available if students do not have internet at home and/or need assistance with accessing the Internet? 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has launched the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” which many broadband carriers have signed. For the next 60 days, its provisions will: 

  • not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; 

  • waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and 

  • open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.  

3. Will the current E-Rate application deadline of March 25, 2020 be extended? 

Yes. The FCC has extended the deadline for schools to submit Funding Year (FY) 2020 FCC Form 471 applications by an additional 35 days. E-Rate applicants will now have until Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT to submit. This also means, any school system who may need to post a new Form 470 for additional service(s), can file a form 470, post an RFP for 28 days and file a Form 471 for FY2020 E-Rate funding. 

The FCC has also directed USAC to provide all applicants undergoing Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) reviews with an automatic, 14-day extension for all PIA requests. 

Waivers for additional deadlines and Requests (Form 486, Form 472, COMAD, invoicing, etc.) have been requested and are under review. 

Applicants are encouraged to also monitor USAC’s webpage (https://www.usac.org/ ) and news feed for relevant information in addition to Department communications. 

4. Are school systems required to provide internet access? 

If a school system enrolls a student in a distance education program, the school shall ensure that all students enrolled in a distance learning course are provided with the necessary course materials and technical support.

 

Various Other Topics

1.Will district staff retirement be affected? 

School district employees should contact PERS with questions regarding retirement eligibility. 

 

 


Key Websites 

 
Key Contacts 

Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) 
Coronavirus Hotline 
877-978-6453 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) 

Public Health Emergencies 
601-576-7400 
msdh.ms.gov 

Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) 
Contact MDE staff through the email directory: www.mdek12.org/directory

In an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the MDE office is closed to the general public until further notice. Our staff will continue to respond to needs of our school districts, parents and communities through email and our resources available on the MDE website. Please use our agency directory to locate email contact information: ww.mdek12.org/directory.