Former Sec. Rivera to Serve New Administration (November 12, 2020)

Former Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera will serve on the agency review team for the U.S. Department of EducationOpens In A New Window. The review teams are comprised of experts who will help to ensure a smooth transition of power to the Biden Administration.

“Pedro Rivera was an excellent secretary of education for Pennsylvania and he is a tremendous choice by President-elect Biden to help prepare the education efforts of the next administration,” said Gov. Wolf. “Pedro’s leadership was critical to rebuilding strong relationships to local school communities and improving the quality of education in our state.

“Under Pedro Rivera’s leadership, Pennsylvania reduced the over-reliance on standardized testing, adopted a landmark basic education funding formula, created the innovative Future Ready PA Index and more. I am proud that Pedro served in my cabinet and I look forward to his efforts to help set the values and priorities of the incoming administration.”

After serving as Pennsylvania secretary of education since Gov. Wolf took office in 2015, Rivera became president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology on Oct. 1. He was previously the superintendent of the School District of Lancaster.

Secretary Rivera also opened the 2019 Annual PAPSA Conference, providing an outstanding presentation.

USDE Releases Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide (November 11, 2020)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has released a new Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide, a resource to help parents and guardians understand how digital tools can provide tailored learning opportunities, engage students with course materials, encourage creative expression, and enrich the educational experience.

The Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide includes guidance and best practices for caregivers around topics including:

1. How to leverage flexibilities and innovations technology and digital tools provide, such as accessibility options, to meet the unique needs of every learner — including students with disabilities and English language learners.

2. Simple steps parents can take to keep their children safe online and foster safe online behavior, such as accessing security features on a child’s device, keeping track of log-in information, and keeping children safe while videoconferencing. The guide also discusses the importance of digital citizenship and offers parents resources to help their child navigate online bullying or encounters with troubling content.

3. How a competency-based learning approach, which measures a student’s knowledge of a subject rather than time spent on the subject, can harness technology for the benefit of students. Digital resources like online assessments, periodic check-ins, and more can update parents on their child’s learning progress, and they can provide instructional flexibility in the event of a school disruption. 4. Easy-to-understand primers on major federal laws governing student privacy and safety, such as FERPA, IDEA, and COPPA.

The guide can be viewed here.

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.