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3/25/2020

 South Dakota School Closure Q&A  

Working Conditions

CAN THEY CALL US INTO WORK?
The answer is determined by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement or school district policy.  If you have an employment contract (teachers do; ESP might), unless you have worked all your contracted days, you are under contract and probably can be required to work up to those number of contracted days.  You should check your negotiated agreement and/or school board policies to see if there is language that addresses the issue.  If you are directed to report to work and have concerns about your personal health or safety in doing so, you should contact your UniServ Director.

DO WE HAVE TO MAKE UP THE CLOSURE DAYS?
There are a variety of factors which will determine whether or not school days will need to be made up: your school calendar, duration of the closure, work that is happening despite the closure, and state law.  Each school district will probably handle this differently.  The closure days may be treated similarly to snow days. Your negotiated agreement may have language that talks about pandemics or similar events and how days will be handled under those circumstances.  We suggest you review your negotiated agreement and/or school board policies for applicable language.  If you are required to work during the closure, such as providing on-line or paper packet lessons or preparing or delivering student meals, you should work with your administration to make sure that time is counted toward your contractual workdays.  When it comes back for Veto Day, the Legislature may offer some relief. If so, we will let you know.

CAN THEY MAKE US WORK EVENINGS?
The answer may be determined by how you answer the following two questions:  are the evening hours in addition to your normal day hours,   or are the evening hours part of your normal day hours?  You should review your negotiated agreement and/or school board policies for applicable language.  If your district will be providing on-line learning or teacher access by another method, we encourage you to work with your administration to make sure your students have access to you, which might include evenings, but so that access is reasonable and does not require you to work more than your scheduled daily hours without negotiating an increase in those hours.  One district we’ve heard about is instructing its teachers to work 6 hours per day but is allowing the teachers flexibility in determining when to work those hours. 

Professional Issues

If I am asked to grade student work on paper, what safety measures should be implemented?
There is new research indicating that Covid-19 can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard, but the major deliverers of mail and packages don’t seem too concerned based on CDC recommendations about the potential for spread via mail.  While we haven’t seen research confirming whether the findings for cardboard are true for photocopier paper, you may wish to let work handed in by students sit for 24 hours before grading it.  After that time, washing your hands after handling the work and not touching your face during the time you are handling the work should be sufficient protection.  You may wish to ask your district to provide disposable gloves for use with papers as an added safety precaution. 

An alternative solution for your students who have smart phones is to have them return work to you by photographing it and emailing/texting the photo, or download a free scanning app like Tiny Scanner and email/text the scanned file.  Scanned documents are much easier to read than photographed documents and can be saved and sent as PDFs so that they take up less space. 

Do schools still have to meet the student contact hours requirements of SDCL 13-26-1 for the year ?
State requirements measure student contact in hours and not days. Most school calendars already contain significantly more hours than state law requires; however, virtually no district would have reached the state requirements at this point.  The SD Legislature took action on Veto Day at the end of March to allow waiver of the time requirement The SD Dept. of Education issued guidance on flex/distance learning hours.  Essentially, if you are providing distance instruction during the school closure, school superintendents were instructed to submit a plan to the DOE indicating how they planned to fulfill the state requirements.  Check with your district to see what your plan says. 

What are the requirements for providing distance learning for a student with disabilities (IEP or 504)?
Equity is the key. If distance/flex learning is 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. IEPs and 504 plans need to be reviewed to see if accommodations can be met via distance/flex learning procedures established by the district.  If not, a new IEP meeting will need to be held via phone or video conference to determine which, if any, accommodations can be made to ensure that all students are being provided with equitable education opportunities.  An IEP/504 meeting might not be necessary in every case IF the current IEP/504 can be met with distance/flex learning. 

If your school has closed for, generally, more than 10 consecutive school days and no flex/distance learning has occurred, then school administration officials and the child’s IEP team must determine whether the child is available for instruction and could benefit from homebound services such as instructional telephone calls, homework packets, Internet-based lessons, and other distance-based learning approaches. Even prior to that point, a child’s parent may request an IEP team meeting to discuss the potential need for special education and related services, if the exclusion is likely to be of extended duration. If neither parent can attend an IEP team meeting, the school must use other methods to ensure parent participation, including individual or conference telephone calls, consistent with 34 CFR §§ 300.322(c) and 300.328. 

Guidance from SD DOE can be found here.

Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education can be found here or as a PDF.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates has issued their own statement regarding student rights under IDEA.

What will happen with state and other testing?

There will be no state testing for the 2019-2020 school year. 

Advanced Placement Exams have changed dramatically. 

The April administration of the ACT has been postponed to June 14.

What will be the impact of prolonged closure on graduation requirements?
(This answer taken from SD DOE guidance, p. 7.)

Whether a student has met sufficient time in any given course-mastered standards is a local decision. Diplomas are awarded at the district level, and it is up to each school district to set the requirements for course time and diplomas, within the parameters set out by the state in instructional hours and graduation requirements

State administrative regulation defines a unit of credit as the demonstration of student learning for course work. A unit of credit may be granted verifying competency of content through an end-of-course exam, alternative assessments demonstrating content knowledge, or 146 hours of class time. Fractional units of credit may be granted based upon proportionate time spent in class (Unit of Credit Links: ARSD 24:43:01:01 (53). Remember, how and whether this is met is a local decision. Districts may request a credit waivers here

How is certificate renewal being handled during the pandemic?
If you are seeking your first certificate, refer to the guidance provided by SD DOE.  SD DOE has not extended the deadline for certificate renewal.  However, the following advice has been provided by staff at DOE:

Processing of renewal applications is still happening even with staff working from home.  We are unable to take calls but are responding to emails.  Our current processing time is between 2 to 4 weeks.  Normal processing time increases to 8 to 10 weeks during the summer months.  Currently, we are ahead of this timeframe.  One thing for applicants to keep in mind is the amount of time to process depends on when we receive all required documents.  A number of applications are being processed the day we receive the final document.   

We have started a new method of processing this year.  Our goal is to avoid touching applications multiple times.  For example, last year when an application was submitted, we would check it in right away.  It would then be moved to the incomplete application queue or the processing queue.  Our process now is when we check it in, if it is ready to process, we process it right away.  This ultimately allows us to process quicker, but it can make checking in the applications take longer.  We have added a message on the email applicants receive when they submit their application stating that it will take approximately 10 days before the application is checked in.  We still answer several emails asking us to review documents and check on applications.  This in turn increases the processing time because of the time spend responding to emails. 

If it is ever appropriate, one tip we would give applicants is if they have a question about a renewal for next year or even further out, please hold off on the question until the fall or winter months.  We receive hundreds of emails each day and answering questions that could possibly wait until a later point keeps us from processing current applications.

If you are looking for grad credit or CEU hours online, visit http://bridge.sdea.org for PD options. 

State Funding and Supports

Will the Covid-19 impact state funding?
Covid-19 should not impact the current year’s budget.  However, there are concerns about the impacts on next year’s budget. The legislature did approve a two-percent increase to state funding. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that legislators may re-evaluate the budget during veto day or at a special session. SDEA is urging lawmakers to leave the budget as is. Legislators should look at the funding coming from the Federal Stimulus packages before making any drastic cuts which could worsen the crisis for educators, students and families in South Dakota.