MSBA issues updated guidance for school board meetings

The transition from Minnesota’s stay-at-home directive to the current stay safe environment may lead some school boards to alter their board meeting approach. It is important to keep in mind that the peacetime state of emergency and pandemic declaration remain in effect. MSBA offers guidance below with recognition that the manner in which a school board holds its meetings is largely a matter of local control.

A school board may choose to return to in-person meetings, depending upon its assessment of public health factors. A board would be well advised to limit attendance to 10 people, as set forth by the CDC and MDH, until further notice. In addition, a board should ensure that other public health practices — including social distancing, hand hygiene, and other preventative measures — are followed.

These in-person meetings may be held under Minnesota Statutes 13D.021 (remote meeting statute) because the peacetime state of emergency and the pandemic continue. This statute allows the board to determine that the public may not attend in person if “attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the health pandemic or emergency declaration.”

Under the remote meeting statute, the board must provide remote access. This step allows the public to follow the public meeting, which is important (1) if the board has prohibited public attendance; or (2) even if public attendance is permitted, some members of the public may be health-compromised and unable to attend an in-person meeting.

A school board should recognize that board members, staff, and other meeting participants (or their family members) may have compromised health conditions that preclude in-person attendance. A board should avoid setting up a situation in which a person feels compelled to accept health risks in order to attend a meeting in person.

For this reason, board members, employees, and other meeting participants should be offered remote access for the duration of the pandemic. In a related point, close consideration should be given to whether minors — including students and student representatives on the board — will be permitted to enter the meeting location or will be provided remote access.

Media may request access to the meeting location if the school board returns to in-person meetings. A school board should anticipate this likelihood as it contemplates a return to in-person meetings.

In making these decisions, it is important to note that Executive Order 20-20 states, “Minnesotans working in any field are encouraged to work from their home or residence as much as possible.”

This guidance is also available on the MSBA website.

Please see Minnesota’s Stay Safe Plan for additional guidance.

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Minnesota Department of Education updates Summer Programming Guidance

The Minnesota Department of Education updated its Minnesota Summer Programming Guidance for Schools.

Here’s what’s new in the May 26 version:

Under Summer Learning Overview (Page 5):

The purpose of this guidance is to ensure equitable programming for all students. Some districts or charter schools may choose to offer differentiated programming to specific grade levels (e.g., offering hybrid programming to grades K-8, and distance learning to grades 9-12). This is acceptable as long as all students within a specific grade level are receiving equitable opportunities.

New section: In-School Special Education Services (Page 13)

Beginning during summer learning and Extended School Year, a school district or charter school may provide in-school special education services, and assessments or observations needed for special education evaluations. Under no circumstances should school staff provide special education services at the student’s home or place of residence.

Students, staff, and families shall follow MDH Guidance for Social Distancing in Youth and Student Programs including utilizing a health check for students and staff prior to entering the school and social distancing at least six feet of separation at all times. Also, please review MDH face covering guidance to determine if face coverings, including masks would be appropriate and necessary while providing services.  

The only way to protect students and staff from infection in the absence of social distancing is through the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). There is currently a nationwide shortage of PPE and most school staff are not properly trained on the proper use of PPE. It will not be possible for school districts and charter schools statewide to evaluate PPE needs, procure the appropriate PPE, and train staff on how to use the PPE before summer programming and ESY begins. Therefore, if services cannot be provided in a way that allows for social distancing, the in-school services cannot be provided.

School districts are highly encouraged to complete initial Part C and Part B initial evaluations/reevaluations that require in person assessments and observations during summer programming, in accordance with MDH guidance. Initial evaluations may be offered even if a district or charter school is not offering a hybrid instructional model.

Nothing in this guidance should be construed to encourage or require school staff, students, or families in at-risk categories to act inconsistently with public health recommendations or the advice of their medical providers.

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School Finance Working Group Update

The School Finance Working Group met remotely Thursday, May 21, 4-5:30 p.m.

The agenda included looking at some funding streams that are not equally available to all school districts.  The topics addressed were teacher development and evaluation (TDE), Q Comp and early childhood.

Q Comp funding was the first topic addressed. Q Comp consists of state funding ($169 per student) and a local levy (up to $91 per student) authority. Currently, one third of the school districts receive Q Comp funding, most of which are located in the metro area.  The North Branch School District highlighted the value and positive impact of Q Comp program and how the funding has allowed their district to create a professional learning community (PLC) structure, increased leadership capacity and innovation in their district.

The second topic addressed was the early childhood programs throughout the state.  There are eight different programs with different funding mechanisms and program qualifications throughout the state, which contributes to a complex system for districts and parents to effectively navigate.  One moment of clarity was the reality that 4,000 early learners participating in EVPK program will not continue without funding from the State in the next biennium. Given the projected budget deficit this may leave many districts and students without a program.

The meeting concluded with small virtual breakout discussions leading to a large group discussion.  There was agreement among members that the group is at a point where they need to decide how to proceed. The question was asked, do they ignore the budget projection and move forward with funding reforms or anticipate the deficit and make recommendations on how to proceed based on those projections.  There was consensus that the Commissioner would need to weigh in as they reassess the mission of the work group.  A poll will be sent out members of the work group to gauge how members want to move forward. Is this a time to refocus and possibly redirect the energy of the work group? If so, one suggestion is to assess distance learning with a focus on how to make up for lost time learning for disadvantage students.

The next meeting will be June 4 and they will focus on the area of the Long-term Facilities Maintenance Formula (LTMF) and possibly the transportation formula.  The other scheduled dates are:  June 18, July 16 and July 30.

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Federal Advocacy and Weekly Policy Update

 Congressional Update 

Senate Adjourned Until June, House on Limited Memorial Day Schedule 

Following House passage of the Democratic Leadership’s latest COVID-19 response bill (the “HEROES Act”) congressional work to respond to the emergency has slowed. Senate Republican Leaders said the body would not consider the HEROES Act. They also said they would not develop other emergency response legislation until the CARES Act has had more time to work. With the Senate on recess – and the House planning a light schedule – during Memorial Day week, we do not expect significant work to begin again until June. At that time, the Senate and House appropriations committees are expected to focus on the regular fiscal year 2021 appropriations process, including continuing work on the U.S. Department of Education’s budget. Additional COVID-19 emergency response discussions between the Senate, House, and White House are likely to grow more serious later in the month. MSBA and NSBA plans to continue urging Congress to provide significant additional emergency funding for school districts, while also seeking key increases in regular fiscal year 2021 funding for the Department of Education. 

Administration Update 

Department of Education Publishes English Learner Fact Sheet

The Department of Education published a fact sheetthat “outlines States’ responsibilities to English learners and their parents during the COVID-19 emergency.” The fact sheet covers questions associated with annual EL assessment, entrance requirements, providing services to EL students, use of ESSA Title III funds, exit procedures, and more. 

USDA Extends Nutrition Program Waivers 

The Department of Agriculture extendedthree nationwide waivers for schools and local programs to make it easier to feed eligible children through August 31, 2020.  The initial waivers were set to expire on June 30. The Food and Nutrition Service waivers provide the following flexibility: 

  • Non-Congregate Feeding: FNS is allowing meals to be served to children outside of the normally required group setting to support social distancing; 
  • Parent Pickup: FNS is allowing parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to their children; and 
  • Meal Times: FNS is waiving requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for grab-n-go options. This also allows for multiple days-worth of meals to be provided at once. The USDA also said it is working quickly to approve states for Pandemic-EBT, which “provides food-purchasing benefits, equal to the value of school meals, to households with children who would otherwise be receiving free or reduced-price meals at school.”  

Centers for Disease Control Publishes Re-Opening Guidelines

This week, the CDC published guidelines for reopening the economy, including schools, titled “CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again”.  CDC said, “[a]ll decisions about following these recommendations should be made in collaboration with local health officials and other State and local authorities who can help assess the current level of mitigation needed based on levels of COVID-19 community transmission and the capacities of the local public health and healthcare systems, among other relevant factors.” 

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Press release: FBI warns of abuse material being displayed during Zoom meetings

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

The COVID-19 crisis has caused many organizations and schools to conduct virtual meetings/events, some of which are open to the public. Additionally, links to many virtual events are being shared online, resulting in a lack of vetting of approved participants.

During the last few months, the FBI has received more than 195 reports of incidents throughout the United States and in other countries in which a Zoom participant was able to broadcast a video depicting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The FBI considers this activity to be a violent crime, as every time child sexual abuse material is viewed, the depicted child is re-victimized. Furthermore, anyone who inadvertently sees child sexual abuse material depicted during a virtual event is potentially a victim as well.

The FBI is committed to apprehending any individual who produces or distributes child sexual abuse material and is seeking the public’s assistance to identify the person or persons responsible for these egregious crimes.

  • If you are the administrator or host of a Zoom meeting in which CSAM was broadcast, please contact the FBI; do not delete or destroy any of your computer logs without further direction.
  • If you recorded a Zoom meeting in which child sexual abuse material was broadcast, please contact the FBI for assistance in removing the CSAM from your device.
  • If you believe you are a victim of a child sexual abuse material broadcast during a Zoom event, as defined above, please contact the FBI to learn about your victim rights and possible victim assistance.
  • If you know who is committing these most recent egregious crimes, please contact the FBI.

The following steps may mitigate future child sexual abuse material issues during Zoom events:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: (1) require a meeting password and (2) use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted, publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific attendees.
  • Manage screensharing options. In Zoom, change screensharing to “Host Only.”

If you are a victim of child sexual abuse material being broadcast during a Zoom event or if you have information regarding the identity of any individual distributing or producing CSAM, please report it to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or anonymously online at tips.fbi.gov.

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Gov. Walz joins states across U.S. in ordering flags at half-staff to honor COVID-19 victims

In accordance with a proclamation issued by President Trump, Governor Tim Walz today directed all flags at state and federal buildings in Minnesota to be flown at half-staff, effective immediately, until sunset on Sunday, May 24, 2020, to remember, mourn, and honor lives lost due to COVID-19.

Individuals, businesses, and other organizations also are encouraged to join in lowering their flags to honor Minnesotans who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and their families.

Access Governor Walz’s full proclamation.

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MDE updates distance learning, summer programming guidance

The Minnesota Department of Education recently updated two documents — the Minnesota Distance Teaching and Learning Implementation Guidance and the Minnesota Summer Programming Guidance for Schools.

Here’s what new in the May 21 version of the Distance Teaching and Learning Implementation Guidance:

Home Visits (Page 7): A school district or charter school may allow school staff to visit a student’s home to build and preserve relationships with the student and their families. Under no circumstances should school staff enter the student’s home or place of residence. The visit may occur outside of the student’s home or at another suitable outdoor location, such as a park or taking a walk. Limit visits to no longer than 45 minutes. Students, staff, and families shall follow MDH and CDC Public Health Guidelines, including social distancing at least six feet of separation at all times. All students, families, and staff should wear appropriate face masks at all times. If school staff are handing off instructional materials or other items, staff should follow the same procedure used in school to hand off materials or receive materials from the student and family. Nothing in this guidance should be construed to encourage or require school staff, students, or families in at-risk categories to act inconsistently with public health recommendations or the advice of their doctors.

Limited Public Library In-Person Services (Page 20): While the decision to open to limited public service is a local one, libraries that are exploring doing so should be mindful of guidelines expressed in Executive Order 20-56 with respect to social distancing, use of masks, building occupancy, size of gatherings, hand washing and the regular cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces. While there 20 are no CDC or MDH guidelines on quarantine of library materials, MDE recommends that libraries set aside returned materials for a period not less than three days and not to exceed seven days, prior to returning to circulation. A decision to request that those entering the library comply with mask guidelines should be made in consultation with the library board and city or county government. Using scheduled appointments may be one way to limit foot traffic. The board and city or county government should also be consulted for decision-making related to practices for limiting entrance to the building.

Disciplinary Incident Reporting (Page 20): Disciplinary and behavioral incidents are expected to decrease during the distance learning period, though reportable incidents can still occur in both distance learning and on-site care settings. Reportable incidents occurring during the distance learning period must be reported in DIRS following normal reporting procedures. Detailed reporting requirements and definitions are provided in the Disciplinary Incident Reporting System (DIRS) User Guide.

Incidents in School-age Care Settings (Page 20): If an on-site care program is considered an emergency child care program operating under an exclusion, and the school district is operating that program, then the school district’s student code of conduct/student disciplinary policy discipline policy would be applicable for school age students (Minnesota Statutes, section 121A.41). School districts and charter schools must continue to implement behavioral supports and strategies for students receiving special education services as outlined in the student’s IEP or positive behavioral support plan. Students receiving on-site care may be attending alternate locations, or a facility other than their normal school of enrollment, as indicated in MARSS. Due to DIRS functionality, incidents occurring at alternate locations must be reported at the school of enrollment in the student’s MARSS record. The alternate location for these incidents must be submitted on the 2019-20 DIRS COVID-19 Reporting: Incidents Occurring at Alternate Locations form at the end of the school year. School districts and charter schools should only use this form to submit the location for incidents that did not occur at the student’s normally enrolled school and should submit only one form per school district or charter school.

* Related COVID-19 Guidance (Page 21)

· Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS) Distance Learning Reporting Instructions – instructions to report enrollment and attendance during the distance learning period.

· Special Education and COVID-19 Questions and Answers: Due Process – requirements and supports for special education students, including behavior responses for students receiving on-site care in the school setting.

· Supporting Students and Families COVID-19 Resources – provides guidance for engagement with students and families, maintaining a positive school climate, supporting students’ mental health and emotional well-being, and adapting MTSS frameworks for distance learning.

· U.S. ED Office for Civil Rights Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students – requires schools to continue to investigate reports of bullying and harassment of students and to take action to end bullying or harassment.


Here’s what’s new in the Minnesota Summer Programming Guide for Schools:

Under Summer Learning Overview (Page 5): If a district or charter school chooses a hybrid approach, they must offer in-person summer programming to all students who qualify for those services (e.g. targeted services), as well as students receiving extended school year services (ESY), while maintaining social distancing. Multi-lingual learners and students receiving ESY services should receive additional opportunities for face-to-face instruction, in accordance with MDH guidance. A district may not offer a hybrid program to some students while requiring others to do full-time distance learning, unless it is not possible to provide the face to face hybrid services in accordance with MDH social distancing guidelines. Nothing in this guidance should be construed to encourage or require school staff, students, or families in at-risk categories to act inconsistently with public health recommendations or the advice of their doctors. Any family may choose to opt their student out of in-person programming.

Under Nutrition/Summer Food Program (Page 12): The USDA has extended the non-congregate waiver until August 31, 2020.

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