CDC Updates Guidance on Airborne Spread of Coronavirus (October 20, 2020)

According to NPR, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that the coronavirus can be spread through airborne particles that can linger in the air “for minutes or even hours” — even among people who are more than 6 feet apart.

In new guidance published on October 5, 2020 on its website, the CDC also acknowledged that, under certain circumstances, people have become infected by smaller particles that can linger in the air in enclosed spaces that are poorly ventilated. This occurs when people may be breathing heavily (e.g., while singing or exercising) and there is now evidence that the amount of smaller infectious droplets and particles that a contagious person produces “became concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people”, even if they were more than 6 feet away.

Along with improving indoor ventilation, the CDC recommends that people stay at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible, avoid crowded indoors spaces, and to wash their hands regularly.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for Entire 2020-21 School Year (October 13, 2020)

On October 9, 2020,  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year. This unprecedented move helps to ensure that all children across the US have access to nutritious food as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA previously extended child nutrition waivers through December 31, 2020 based upon available funding at the time. The flexibilities extended  will now allow schools and other local program operators to continue to leverage the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) to provide no cost meals to all children, available at over 90,000 sites across the country, through June 30, 2021.   To view the press release, click here.

USDE and OCR Release Q&A Documents Regarding the Delivery of Instruction During the Pandemic (October 12, 2020)

Separate documents were recently released by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

In a document titled Questions and Answers for K-12 Public Schools In the Current COVID-19 Environment, the USDE reminded schools of their obligations to special education services and civil rights laws regardless of whether students are learning in-person or remotely. The nine-page Q&A document also emphasized that schools must still accept harassment complaints and investigate the allegations under the new Title IX rule, which went into effect August 14, 2020, even if schools are only offering distance learning. Schools are not allowed to have blanket policies that prohibit new complaints from being submitted and accepted or to pause investigations and proceedings.

Guidance from OCR said that although schools should make every effort for in-person learning opportunities, they cannot prioritize reopening plans for groups of students based on their race, national origin or color. The USDE, however, said schools may be required to provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities based on their individual needs. The guidance documents are in response to questions from the education community and to add clarity to existing law or policy, according to the department. 

In explaining why schools cannot phase-in in-person learning options based on a student’s “race, color or national origin,” OCR said such preferences would violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, schools may be required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide in-person services to certain students with disabilities so those students can receive a FAPE. 

To view the Questions and Answers for K-12 Public Schools In the Current COVID-19 Environment, click here.

To view the document titled Questions and Answers Regarding the Department’s Final Title IX Ruleclick here.

Information provided by Education Dive.

US House Passes CR to Extend Waivers for Federal Food Programs for School-aged Children to Continue through SY 2020-21 (September 27, 2020)

On September 23, 2020,  the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that includes $8 billion in funding to support school nutrition programs through the end of the 2020-21 school year, allowing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend all Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waivers through the end of the school year. The USDA in August had extended waivers through December 31, 2020, but without the CR those waivers will expire.

The waivers provide schools with meal distribution flexibility, and the extensions are needed to ensure that children under the age of 18 have consistent access to breakfast and lunch during the entire 2020-21 school year.  The waiver extensions will permit schools to continue offering meals to all children at no charge, minimizing the challenges of meal service and ensuring that students have access to food during the pandemic.

H.R. 3337, which is the bill that contains the CR, seeks to avoid a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2020 and extends federal funding through December 11, 2020.

The bill must now be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law before it can become effective. 

To view HR 3337, click here.

Feds to Ship Millions of COVID-19 Tests​ to Schools (September 26, 2020)

At a September 23, 2020 Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said the federal government will ship millions of COVID-19 tests on a weekly basis to help schools stay open. However, that testing should be part of a multi-pronged approach to limit spread of the disease, including hygiene, social distancing, wearing masks and limiting time in public as is feasible.

At the same hearing, Robert Redfield, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that young adults continue to play a role as major contributors to the spread of the coronavirus, but they are unlikely to get seriously sick from the virus. 

Click here to view video of the hearing.