Frequently Asked Questions – Updated April 1, 2020
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) continues to evaluate options to provide flexibility in meeting the requirements and mandates associated with testing and accountability, instructional days/hours, attendance and graduation. While current specific information can be found below, the VDOE will continue to update the field as additional flexibility is clarified and additional details are received from the U. S. Department of Education.
Due to COVID19, Governor Northam has ordered all K-12 schools remain closed through the end of the school year. Refer to the March 23, 2020, News Release: Governor Northam Orders Statewide Closure of Certain Non-Essential Businesses, K-12 Schools for more information.
- Does the Governor’s order to close schools apply to public and private schools?
Yes. The Governor has ordered all K-12 schools, public and private, to close for the remainder of the school year.
- Should buildings remain open if schools are closed?
This is a local decision. See guidance below related to large gatherings.
- What if the local government is requesting utilization of a school facility to expand access to child care?
The decision to activate school buildings is a local decision. However, the provision of child care services would have to be done in collaboration with or under the approval of the Department of Social Services. Facilities would still need to meet any relevant requirements on health, safety, staffing, etc. Localities will also need to consider some of the unique health needs and concerns, such as avoiding congregation, maintaining small groups, etc. Localities are encouraged to give special consideration to collaborative opportunities that enhance and prioritize child care options for health care/public health workers, first responders, and essential personnel in the public and private sector (e.g., sanitation, food, utilities, transportation, government services).
- What should school divisions consider for large scale events?
On March 23, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam banned all gatherings of 10 people or more. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended cancelling or postponing gatherings of more than 10 people for the next eight weeks. This guidance has not been extended to educational environments. The CDC interim guidance is intended for organizers and staff responsible for planning mass gatherings or large community events in the United States. A mass gathering is a planned or spontaneous event with a large number of people in attendance that could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event, such as concerts, festivals, conferences, worship services, and sporting events. As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, CDC strongly encourages event organizers and staff to prepare for the possibility of outbreak in their communities. Creating an emergency plan for mass gatherings and large community events can help to protect the health of your event participants and community. Updated information can also be found on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) website.
- Does the Governor’s order to close schools apply to preschools?
Yes, if the program is located in a school. It is expected that all Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), Head Start, early childhood special education classrooms or other early childhood classrooms located in schools should follow this order. For classrooms funded all or in part by VPI that are located in non-school, private child care settings or that are run by private child care providers are not required to be closed. This decision should be made locally and in consultation with VPI Coordinators and private child care setting directors.
- Does the Governor’s order to close schools apply to daycares?
No. Child care centers are not impacted by the Governors order to close schools. Sites should make closure decisions in coordination with local health departments. Governor Northam has asked day cares to prioritize essential personnel and adhere to social distancing, new cleaning protocols, and limit group sizes to 10. The Virginia Department of Social Services has issued guidance-This is a PDF document. and FAQs-This is a PDF document. for child care providers.
- How does the Governor’s closure order impact Private Schools?
The Governor has closed all K-12 schools, public and private, for the remainder of the school year. This also includes private special education day schools. Private schools licensed by the VDOE are required to identify contingency plans that contain specifics on emergency preparedness and communication with students, families and staff. The Governor’s order does not extend to residential facilities or residential group homes licensed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). For specific inquiries regarding private schools contact the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE).
- Are exemptions being made for any schools?
The State Superintendent may provide variances on a case by case basis in very limited circumstances. Any request should include at a minimum the following information: (1) Name of program or facility making the request; (2) Size of the student population it serves; (3) Types of services being provided; (4) Reason for request; and (5) Size of staff needed to remain open if you are a school seeking a variance, please submit your request in writing to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at Superintendent@doe.virginia.gov.
What happens to student learning now that schools are closed for the rest of the year?
With schools now closed for the remainder of the academic year, division leaders will be making decisions about how learning will continue and when/how students will make up the rest of the content from this year. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will issue guidance to help divisions execute plans to continue instruction, while ensuring students are served equitably, regardless of income level, access to technology, English learner status or special needs. This includes options for virtual learning, additional instruction through summer programming and integrating instruction into coursework next year. The VDOE will seek a waiver from the federal government to waive state mandated tests. See the Assessment and Accountability section of this document for more details on assessments.
- Is the school year over or are school buildings closed for the remainder of the year?
The current closure order is for the 2019-2020 academic year only.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Guidance
- What additional guidance, considering the Governor’s closure order is available for local school divisions on closing school buildings?
The CDC has provided interim guidance for both schools that do and do not have identified cases of COVID-19 in their communities. The CDC advises that any student or staff that has traveled to/from a country with a Level 3 travel advisory be asked to stay home for 14 calendar days. The same restrictions are advised for newly registered students arriving from a country identified as Level 3. A link to this advisory information can be found here. Please note that CDC guidance is only a recommendation for travelers, does not apply to family members, and is not mandatory. Local school divisions should continue to refer to CDC resources for the most up-to-date guidance on best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The VDOE also advises local school divisions to work with its local health officials and school board counsel on appropriate health and safety practices as well as rights regarding quarantines for students and staff.
- What guidance is there related to the cleaning of school buildings?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued information about cleaning products-This is a PDF document. that are registered for use against COVID-19. The CDC has a link for information related to cleaning products and processes.
- What should schools do about students or faculty returning/traveling to/from countries where COVID-19 is widespread or where local transmission has been reported?
For travelers returning from mainland China, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will already have been alerted to the names and contact information of these individuals and they will work with these individuals to establish monitoring and provide the recommendation that they self-quarantine at home for 14 days. For individuals arriving from countries with a Level 3 travel advisory, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these individuals self-monitor their health while self-quarantining at home for 14 days. VDH does not receive information about these individuals as they do from travelers coming from mainland China. If these individuals become known to the VDH, they will reach out to them to make sure they understand the recommendations (VDH Interim Guidance for Returning Travelers-Level 3-This is a PDF document.). For individuals arriving from countries with a Level 2 travel advisory, the CDC requests these individuals practice social distancing and self-monitor their health for 14 days (VDH Guidance for Returning Travelers- Level 2-This is a PDF document.). Schools should consider postponing or canceling student foreign exchange programs. For those students who are already abroad, consider facilitating travel home if the students express a desire to return to the United States. Similarly, consider facilitating travel for foreign exchange students expressing an interest in returning to their home countries. Even for countries without travel advisories, this recommendation is not due to transmission risk but practicality, including increased difficulty with international travel in general. Schools choosing to maintain programs should evaluate the risks and take proactive measures and monitor the CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel for the latest information.
- What should schools do if an individual is experiencing flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms?
For questions related to children who may experience flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms while at school refer to the CDC Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K-12 Schools to Plan, Prepare and Respond to COVID-19. Parents should contact their local health department or health care provider for additional information and ongoing support. There is a 14-day social distancing or period of social isolation that is required before a student can return to school. Students who are in the VDH COVID-19 active monitoring program will receive a letter indicating they can return to school. Individuals who are not being monitored by the VDH monitoring program will need to follow local policies for any required documentation related to excusing absences or documenting a return to school.
- What should schools do if a student or staff member is identified for testing?
In the event that a student or a staff member qualifies for COVID-19 testing, they should be excused from school or work. A nonspecific letter from the local health department will be provided for this purpose. A school may become aware of an individual undergoing testing for COVID-19 if they seek care with a school-based health provider (e.g. school nurse), but the VDH will not release the individual’s information to the school if they are identified outside of this setting. The VDH will work with the school, as they do for other reportable conditions, to conduct contact tracings and to assist with public health community messaging.
- What should schools do if a student or faculty becomes a case?
If there is a case of COVID-19 identified in a school, the VDH will be working closely with the school to make environmental cleaning recommendations, conduct contact tracing, and investigate any potential exposures to that individual. The VDH may also assist with communications to the student body, parents, faculty and staff.
Additional questions for the Virginia Department of Health related to COVID-19 can be emailed to email@example.com
School Budget and Finance
- Will VDOE continue to make Basic Aid payments during closure?
Yes, contingency plans are in place to allow the semi-monthly recurring payments for Standards of Quality (SOQ) and other Direct Aid accounts to continue to divisions. In the event of a length of school term waiver request, if the waiver is approved, state SOQ Basic Aid funding will remain with the divisions. If there is a partial approval of a waiver, state SOQ Basic Aid funding may be prorated based on the partial approval of a waiver of the 990 hour/180 day Code requirement.
- Will there be any discussions and potential provisions to extend the budget processes for local governments, especially given that the veto session hangs in that balance and the General Assembly (GA) final budget was just released late this past week?
Sec. 15.2-2503 of the Code of Virginia requires local school boards to approve their budgets by April 1 for submission to the local governing body, and Sec. 22.1-93 requires the local governing body to adopt the school division budget by May 15th. Local school divisions are operating under extraordinary circumstances, documentation of the public health reasons budget meetings are being postponed is suggested. School divisions may also consult their school board attorney for guidance. Virtual meetings of local boards may be an option. Also, under Sec. 22.1-93, if VDOE has to issue any new state funding estimates as a result of the Veto Session on April 22, it might be interpreted that the deadline for governing body budget adoption would be 30 days out from when VDOE provided the information, but we don’t know whether any new funding information will have to be issued at this point.
- Is there any flexibility in the annual budget adoption timelines?
The Code of Virginia (in Sections 22.1-92 & 15.2-2503) requires school divisions to adopt a budget by April 1. Additionally, Section 22.1-93 of the Code requires cities and counties to adopt the final school division budget by May 15 or within 30 days of the receipt by the county or city of the estimates of state funds, whichever shall later occur. There does not appear to be authority to extend or waive these deadlines in the Code, and we advise divisions and localities to meet the deadlines as best as possible during these extraordinary circumstances. While there are no exceptions to the deadlines indicated in the Code, there are not any specific state consequences listed either. (See below a response on the authority of local school boards to hold electronic meetings.) Also, under 22.1-93, if VDOE has to issue any new funding estimates as a result of the Veto Session on April 22, it could be interpreted that the deadline for governing body budget adoption would be 30 days following the Veto Session date, permitting additional time; however, it’s not known at this time if any additional funding actions will occur at the Veto Session that would necessitate VDOE issuing additional funding estimates. It is also recommended you consult with your school board attorney for additional guidance.
- If we use federal funds to pay an employee and they are not working, but continue to be paid, can we claim this as a reimbursement?
Divisions should apply their employee compensation policies and procedures consistently for federally funded and non-federally funded employees. To the extent practicable, employees paid with federal funds should continue to work remotely on allowable grant activities or should be paid under the division’s established paid leave policy. If staff are not working during an emergency closure and non-federal funds are used to pay non-federally funded staff, federal funds may be used to pay federally-funded staff in the same manner.
- What are the suggestions for hourly employees/payroll?
In the event of a division closure, divisions may permit such employees to continue working remotely if in compliance with all laws and regulations. Otherwise, authorizing additional paid leave types for non-exempt employees during the state of emergency should be considered. VDOE recommends that local education agencies (LEAs) make employment and compensation related decisions in close consultation with their attorneys.
- What about part-time federally funded employees?
In the event of a division closure, permit such employees to continue working remotely if in compliance with all laws and regulations. Otherwise, authorize additional paid leave types for non-exempt employees during the state of emergency (also see Question #19).
- Are there any impacts to sales tax revenues?
Given the potential change in economic conditions, it is important that school divisions continue to closely monitor their semi-monthly sales tax payments. Sales tax revenues are delayed by a 2-month period of time to school divisions, from the month of sale to month of payment. With that being said, potential revenue impact to school divisions will likely be felt beginning in April or May 2020 and continue into the next fiscal year. Closely monitoring sales tax payments and making necessary adjustments to your revenue projections is important moving forward.
- What may be done in cases where schools are closed for so many days that the 990 hour clock requirement cannot be met? How will school closures affect ADM funding?
If a school or school division closes schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, they should make every effort to make up missed time, including using scheduled vacation days and planned school closure days as well as extending the length of the school day or calendar. Should any school in a school division miss more than five days as the result of an emergency situation, the school may make up teaching days or hours according to the schedule provided in § 22.1-98.C(2) of the Code of Virginia. Funding based on average daily membership (ADM) would not be affected if divisions meet the 990 hour clock requirement or the emergency requirement as outlined in § 22.1-98. If school divisions are still unable to meet these requirements, they can consider seeking a waiver from the Board of Education (BOE). The BOE has expressed they will be more flexible depending on the magnitude of the situation but waivers will only be granted to those schools or school divisions that have exhausted all means to make up for lost teaching time. Schools are reminded that any decision to close schools should be made in consultation with your local health department and in the interest of public health first. The VDOE does not provide recommendations regarding school closures.
- School divisions have been attempting to purchase cleaning supplies such as disinfecting wipes. There is a great deal of price gouging. Is there any talk of helping curtail this predatory behavior?
The VDH has been getting similar reports from multiple sectors. The VDH is working on procuring supplies and identifying strong supply chains. Once they have this information, it will be communicated to other government agencies. In addition, Governor Northam’s State of Emergency declaration triggered a law meant to prevent price gouging in the 30 days following that announcement like this. This legislation prohibits suppliers from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services,” including water, ice, food, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, medicines and personal protective gear.
- We are aware that we need to watch Sales tax revenues, however, if the General Assembly or the Governor restate the 19/20 Sales Tax estimates used to calculate Basic Aid, will divisions be held harmless since adjustment to Sales Tax at the state level, result in a reduction in Basic Aid for the state - and the locality?
Any type of hold harmless funding or adjustment related to use of Sales Tax estimates in the Basic Aid formula would require action and approval by the General Assembly and Governor.
- Divisions are expending funds to pay contracted employees during the closure based upon existing basic projections, if those basic aid projections are adjusted, will there be some type of advanced notice to divisions or some level of hold harmless funding?
In the event of a length of school term waiver request, if the waiver is approved, the full amount of state SOQ Basic Aid funding will remain with the divisions. If there is a partial approval of a waiver, state SOQ Basic Aid funding may be prorated based on the partial approval of a waiver of the 990 hour/180 day Code requirement. Based on the current Code and Appropriation Act provisions, there is no hold harmless provision currently available. This could change but would require authorization and approval by the General Assembly and Governor.
- What about annual physical requirements for bus drivers seeking continued employment contracts?
As this is a statutory requirement, the Superintendent is unable to waive the annual physical for school bus drivers but is currently exploring options for flexibility.
Assessment and Accountability
- Will VDOE cancel Standards of Learning (SOL) testing?
On March 23rd, Governor Northam ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for the remainder of the academic year as a response to the continued spread of COVID-19. As such, the administration of the SOL tests, the local scoring and score entry requirements for the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program, and the administration of the ACCESS for ELs assessment for English Learners are suspended.
- What are resources for Advanced Placement (AP) courses and testing?
AP Central has been updated with information about flexible testing options for schools experiencing substantial disruption or closure and guidance for schools that plan to maintain AP instruction while students are at home. An update can be found here: apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update. AP Central has also prepared a one-page overview-This is a PDF document. of how AP teachers can use the free, daily online practice in AP Classroom to check student understanding of each topic and skill in the AP course and ensure that students are well prepared for exam day.
- What is the impact on AP testing? The CollegeBoard provided information on March 20 that begins to outline an alternative plan for AP testing review and administration.
- The CollegeBoard is providing free remote learning resources to students by AP teachers beginning on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
- Traditional face-to-face exam administrations will not take place. Students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home that will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students covered by early March.
- Students will be able to take these streamlined exams on any device they have access to—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option.
- Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn. For decades, colleges have accepted a shortened AP Exam for college credit when groups of students have experienced emergencies.
- We’ll continue to support students with free resources through exam day. And while we encourage students to wait until closer to the test date to decide, any student already registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge.
- The College Board recognizes that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating. Working with partners, they will invest so that these students have the tools and connectivity they need to review AP content online and take the exam. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity, you can reach out to them directly to let them know.
- The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details will be available by April 3.
For more information, please visit the AP Updates for Schools Impacted by Coronavirus website.
- How does the Virginia Department of Education plan to address any impact the chronic absenteeism indicator may have on school accreditation ratings?
When a school closes, the chronic absenteeism indicator is not impacted because students are not considered absent when the school is closed. The Standards of Accreditation (SOA) at 8VAC20-131-380.F.6 provide the opportunity for local school boards to appeal a performance level indicator for a school. The intent of the appeal provision in the SOA is to provide potential relief to schools that have experienced a significant event impacting performance on an indicator. Schools where student absences resulting from COVID-19 have an aggregate, negative impact the chronic absenteeism indicator will have the opportunity to submit an appeal. If this is the case, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will be available to provide guidance on the chronic absenteeism indicator. It will be the responsibility of each individual division to provide student data to support the appeal.
- What is the impact on SAT administration?
The College Board is canceling the May 2, 2020, SAT administration. Makeup exams for the March 14 administration (scheduled March 28) are also canceled. Registered students will receive refunds. The College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as feasible in place of canceled administrations.
- What is the impact on dual enrollment courses through community colleges?
Some community colleges have resumed dual enrollment classes online. If a student of dual enrollment online courses does not have Internet access, please contact the community college providing the course for possible resources. For situations where students are not able to access courses, options may include a correspondence course to finish, re-enrollment to finish, or re-enrollment to retake the course. VDOE is working closely with the Virginia Community College System and Richard Bland College to determine potential solutions for the multitude of scenarios for dual enrollment classes throughout Virginia based on who is teaching the course (school division teacher or community college faculty), the length of the course, the amount of course content and seat time completed, among other factors. More information will be provided in the near future.
- If public school students will not be completing the Standards of Learning assessments in spring 2020, will similar flexibility apply to home-instructed students and the requirement that parents demonstrate evidence of progress by August 1 of each year? Public school students will not be completing the Standards of Learning assessments in spring 2020 because Governor Northam has closed schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The requirement that parents of home-instructed students demonstrate evidence of progress for their student is detailed in Section 22.1-254.1 (C) of the Code of Virginia, and this remains unaffected by the close of schools. The Code of Virginia continues to require thata parent who provides home instruction demonstrate evidence of progress for their student to the division superintendent by August 1 of each applicable year using one of the following options: (i) evidence that the child has attained a composite score in or above the fourth stanine on any nationally normed standardized achievement test, or an equivalent score on the ACT, SAT, or PSAT test or (ii) an evaluation or assessment which the division superintendent determines to indicate that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress, including but not limited to (a) an evaluation letter from a person licensed to teach in any state, or a person with a master's degree or higher in an academic discipline, having knowledge of the child's academic progress, stating that the child is achieving an adequate level of educational growth and progress or (b) a report card or transcript from an institution of higher education, college distance learning program, or home-education correspondence school.
- How are ISAEP students and GED testing impacted?
ISAEP programs should follow the guidance of their local school division in providing learning opportunities to enrolled ISAEP students during the closures. For all prospective GED examinees, both ISAEP and adult students, access to testing may be impacted as many testing centers are closed; however, some centers are still operating on an abbreviated schedule with limited capacity. To access this list of testing centers, students should log into their individual GED.com account and begin the test registration process. The testing centers will populate once a subject area test is selected. For the latest updates on GED testing, visit GED.com.
- Can school divisions voluntarily choose to deliver SOLs in September when students return, and if so, does it count for accreditation for the following year?
Please note, pending finalization of all required waivers, the VDOE will not require that students take SOLs for courses they were enrolled in during Spring 2020 in the Fall. Thus, this question is only for those divisions that voluntarily opt to deliver SOLs in September 2020. Even though it is not required, some school divisions have requested whether SOLs can be delivered at the beginning of the Fall term to determine gaps in learning for students due to the recent school closures and/or as a baseline for growth in the 2021 accreditation cycle. If school divisions choose to administer the SOL reading and/or mathematics tests that 3rd through 7th grade students would have taken in spring 2020 during their new grade level in fall 2020, the scores would count as a baseline for growth for the 2021-2022 accreditation ratings.
- Please share guidance related to online or distance learning during an extended school closure.
The impact to students during an extended school closure can be significant. The learning time and support students receive at school are not easily supplemented or replaced. Understanding the desire and responsibility of parents and educators alike to provide continuity for every student in their thinking and learning, many school divisions are assessing the feasibility of providing online learning in the event of extended school closures. In looking at this option, it is important to consider the practical steps necessary to appropriately serve every student equitably and the extent to which a traditional school environment can be quickly replicated online. It is not a simple task, nor is it one that should be attempted without serious consideration of equity and access. Schools should thoughtfully evaluate their approach, understand their legal obligations, and maintain the standards for delivery of instruction and student supports. Services, programs and activities online must be accessible to persons, including individuals with disabilities unless equally effective alternative access is provided in another manner (U. S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 2020). Divisions may have the capacity to explore expanding or offering online learning. Divisions should apply an equity lens and consider the impacts on underserved groups, including students of color, students with disabilities, emerging bilingual students, students experiencing poverty and homelessness, and students who belong to other protected classes. Consider whether the model will improve or worsen disparities between populations. Consider barriers to equitable implementation and unintended consequences. Shifting from a “brick and mortar” school environment to online learning that meets the regulations of holding “school” is a complex task that requires thoughtful planning, serious consideration of practicality, and assessment of risk. This assessment of risk should consider the impact of compensatory education and exposure for local school divisions to dispute resolution. Additional guidance is also available from the U. S. Department of Education (USED) including a short webinar on online education and website accessibility and a fact sheet-This is a PDF document. on addressing the risk of COVID-19 in schools while protecting the civil rights of students.
- What is the impact on Driver’s Education?
The DMV/VDOE have approved public schools to provide equitable synchronous classroom driver education instruction with the face-to-face time verified by the school administrator. This synchronous delivery is intended to meet the required hour-for-hour/day-for-day instruction prescribed by the Code of Virginia for face-to-face classroom driver education.
This flexibility allows school divisions to continue teaching classroom driver education instruction under the following conditions:
- All driver education instruction must follow the state-standardized curriculum approved by the Virginia Board of Education as required by the Code of Virginia;
- Instruction must be “face-to-face” (video conferencing or another synchronous platform);
- Time must be documented;
- The principal must verify that the driver education program meets the 36-period requirement;
- The 90-minute parent/teen requirement may be delivered to small groups by the classroom teacher via Zoom or another synchronous platform; and
- The Driver Education Certificates of Completion (DEC-1 or DEC-8) must be signed by the teacher of record and a school administrator.
- What is the impact on Behind-the-Wheel?
Because it is impossible to maintain safe social distancing recommendations in vehicles, school divisions should not be providing behind-the-wheel instruction until safe social distancing recommendations are amended or lifted.
- Has flexibility been provided to students in cosmetology or master barber classes?
Students enrolled in cosmetology or master barber courses will be eligible to take the licensure examination if their instructor submits a Training Verification form certifying the student completed the VDOE-required training, regardless of the hour amount.
- Has flexibility been provided to students in nursing programs?
The Virginia Board of Nursing has waived the following requirements for 2019-2020 graduating seniors. The waiver shall remain in effect until June 10, 2020 unless sooner amended or rescinded by further executive order.
- Registered Nurse (RN): The minimum requirement of 500 hours of direct client care supervised by qualified faculty has been waived.
- Practical Nurse (PN): The minimum requirement of 400 hours of direct client care supervised by qualified faculty has been waived. Note: The requirement for practical nurse students to not exceed more than 25% of direct client contact hours through simulation has been waived. The requirement for pre-licensure registered programs must not exceed 100 hours of simulated client care hours under the waiver. No more than 50 percent of the total clinical hours for any course may be used as simulation.
- Nurse Aide (NA): the requirement that other instructional personnel who assist the primary instructor in providing classroom instruction be limited to registered nurses or licensed practical nurses has been waived. Further, the requirement that all instructional personnel shall demonstrate competence to teach adults has been waived.
- If a division’s plan to address instruction during school closure includes summer school, can it be required for promotion?
The decision to require summer school is a local decision, however the VDOE does not recommend mandating participation in summer school as a requirement for promotion, per VDOE Guidance on Graduation Requirements, Awarding of Credits, and Continuity of Learning. The VDOE would encourage school divisions to consider each student's situation and provide flexibility and multiple opportunities to provide instruction leading to promotion.
- Can the VDOE provide any guidance with grading and grade point averages?
The authority to award grades and determine grade point averages rests with local school divisions. School divisions should consider the guidance related to distance and online learning and the considerations regarding equity and a thoughtful approach to instruction, and the impact of alternative measures of achievement and mastery. Whereas the VDOE recognizes that decisions on grades are a local decision, the VDOE does not recommend grading work completed during the closures since schools are closed. Additionally, VDOE recognizes that grade calculations and GPA are a local policy issue. VDOE does recommend that school divisions establish a methodology to fairly calculate grades based on work previously completed and a methodology for including said grades in GPA calculations and on student transcripts. VDOE encourages school divisions to work closely with VDOE should they feel they need additional flexibility within the transcript regulations.
- What will happen to students enrolled in Virtual Virginia (VVA) courses during an extended closure?
Students enrolled in VVA courses will continue working on courses and remain in contact with VVA teachers via phone, email, LMS, or web conferencing. VVA teachers will be flexible and work with individual students who are not able to access online course content or tools. VVA will continue to be flexible with students and will work with schools as needed to adapt instruction to the needs of our shared students. VVA faculty will continue to teach, conduct live online instruction sessions with students, and remain available to parents, counselors, mentors, and students for the duration of any extended school closure.
Student needs will be different, and VVA teachers and administration will work with each student to ensure he or she has the same opportunity to succeed in the coming days and weeks. Below are some strategies VVA teachers may implement to assist students:
- Modify assignments
- Assign work that can easily be completed at home without an internet connection
- Provide flexible deadlines
- Use both email and phone to contact students and parents/guardians
- Provide additional possibilities for alternate submission methods (for example, phone calls, scans or photos of handwritten work, etc.)
Will there be extensions on grant funds - i.e. Carl Perkins, Security grant expenditure deadlines?
We are not aware of any extensions at this time for use of federal grant funds, but will follow-up with federal program staff in DOE to confirm that and check on the possibility of any extensions. For the state funded School Security Equipment Grant, DOE will allow an extension until June 30, 2020 to spend the awarded 2019-2020 grants.
- Will students moving to Virginia during the period of closure be able to advance with their respective grades even if schools do not reopen?
Grade placement and advancement is a local decision. Local school divisions will need to determine which grade level is most appropriate for an incoming student, based on the student’s academic record and current instruction as compared to a Virginia public school student of the same age and grade range.
- Do locally awarded verified credits have to be awarded by a certain date?
Please refer to VDOE Guidance on Graduation Requirements, Awarding of Credits, and Continuity of Learning for information regarding the awarding of standard and verified credits.
- If a school elects to award pass/fail for students, how would that be calculated into a student's GPA and shown on a transcript?
GPA calculation is a local policy decision.
- Can schools award some students a grade for a course while giving others a pass/fail?
VDOE recognizes that grade calculations and GPA are a local policy issue. Some schools may choose variations of finalizing students’ grades. VDOE does recommend that school divisions establish a methodology to fairly calculate grades based on work previously completed and a methodology for including said grades in GPA calculations and on student transcripts. VDOE also recommends that if a school division decides to offer letter grades on an individual basis, no letter grade should be lower than the student’s grade on March 13, 2020.
- If a student was failing a course at the time of school closures should they still receive credit for the course?
For students who were not passing a class at the time of the school closure, the VDOE recommends that these students be provided with opportunities to demonstrate competency so that a standard credit may be awarded. Divisions may choose to provide new instruction to certain students, especially if a majority of the standards in any given course had not been completed.
- Can students choose to drop a course that they feel they don’t need or were doing poorly in at the time of school closings?
Dropping and adding classes rests with local division policy. School divisions may choose to amend drop/add policy in order to accommodate students affected by school closings. The provision of instruction should be done with careful consideration of providing equitable access and support for a variety of students.
- If making a note on a transcript for a student who is missing content should a grade also be awarded?
While the student is completing missing content, the VDOE recommends that schools denote, through any means allowable in the student information system, the credits on the transcript with an asterisk or note explaining that the asterisk or note will be removed upon completion of the missing content. For purposes of documenting graduation credits, the student should receive the standard credit with the same asterisk or note until the missing content is completed.
Encourage students to print out what they will need while home, if possible. Students are encouraged to contact teachers as they need assistance. Additional questions regarding Virtual Virginia should be directed to Dr. Brian Mott, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- What should local education agencies plan for in regards to early childhood education programs that are still open and servicing eligible students with disabilities?
If students are being served in Child Development Centers are receiving services through their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and are attending school the provision of services should still be provided to ensure the requirements of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) are met. If services are not able to be provided per the IEP or IFSP, the IEP/IFSP Team would need to be reconvened to make an individualized determination as to whether compensatory services are needed under applicable standards and requirements for the time/services not provided. The Governor has not required the closure of licensed child care centers and/or private preschools. As such, there is variability in what programs will remain open/closed and many of these locations will continue to operate in what are highly extraordinary circumstances.
The Office of Early Childhood has posted two FAQ documents to provide details for early childhood programs:
- Division of School Readiness, Office of Early Childhood Frequently Asked Questions-This is a Word document. – This document provides information for VPI, ECSE, and other school-based early childhood programs.
- Early Childhood Special Education - Transition from Part C to Part B FAQ-This is a Word document. – This document provides information on the IDEA Transition from Part C to Part B
Special Education and Student Services
- Has there been any discussion about how school divisions will provide for FAPE for students with disabilities in the event of school closures?
If a school closure causes educational services for all students to pause within a school or division, then the school/division is not required to provide services to the affected students eligible for special education services during that same period of time. If a division has extended school closures, VDOE has advised that school divisions should consider options and ideas to engage students in reading, thinking and learning. Creating such opportunities should be done with careful consideration of providing equitable access and support for a variety of students. Due to the waivers that are likely to be granted for school closures related to COVID-19, schools should not consider these strategies for continuity of learning as make-up days or hours. Positive proactive strategies to continue engagement in learning are not a form of instruction/instructional day and thus would not require school divisions to offer FAPE. If a school division does begin to offer instructional services by alternative means the division will remain responsible for the free appropriate public education (FAPE) of its students eligible for special education services with an individualized education program (IEP). 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. Once school resumes, the school must return to providing special education and related services to students with disabilities in accordance with the student’s IEP, or for students entitled to FAPE under Section 504, consistent with any plan developed to meet the requirements of Section 504. Additionally, after an extended closure, divisions are responsible for reviewing how the closure impacted the delivery of special education and related services to students eligible for special education services. Additional specific guidance will be provided to division level special education directors.
- Timelines for special education and will the state or federal calendar be adjusted?
At this time, there is no guidance from the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) regarding the waiver of federal timelines related to special education compliance. OSEP has been clear in the past that there is no waiver for natural disasters. However, OCR has provided guidance that “ IEP teams are not required to meet in person while schools are closed.” In addition, OCR has stated that “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. 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.” With this in mind, local school divisions should develop a plan to support maintaining timelines and to document clearly if a delay occurs, the nature and extent of the delay and the plan to move as quickly as possible to prevent any further delay. Local Directors of Special Education should be consulted for local and school based guidance. Recall that existing regulations already provide for certain types of flexibility with regard to holding meetings and for extending timelines. For instance, if the parent and school division agree in writing to extend the 65 business day timeline to obtain additional data that cannot be obtained within the 65 business days, the evaluation/eligibility timeline may be extended. In addition, amendments to IEPs may be made without a meeting, and meetings may always be conducted virtually or by phone see 8 VAC 20-81-110.E.3). As always, school divisions should be flexible in allowing Parents to attend IEP meetings by alternative means and clearly communicate these options to parents. Additionally, school divisions should carefully document all attempts to arrange meetings with parents, including providing meeting notice that complies with special education regulations.
- What is the role of local school divisions in making decisions regarding Children’s Services Act (CSA) funded students being served in private schools?
The impact of the state of emergency on contractual arrangements with service providers through the CSA remains a matter of local jurisdiction. Local school divisions are encouraged to work through their local Coordination, Planning and Management Teams (CPMT), local CSA office and partnering private schools to discuss this matter.
- Should local school divisions plan on any adjustments to the submission of Annual Plans for special education funding supported through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?
Currently there are not any plans to change the due date of the annual plans. School divisions have all of the available information needed in order to submit their Annual Plans on time. Additional information in the FAQ regarding public meetings may be useful to divisions seeking board approval of their plans.
- Given the extended closure, how can schools ensure student medication is returned?
Many schools were able to get student medication to families over the last 2 weeks. Schools may also select to arrange for pick up utilizing guidance for social distancing. Schools may also select to mail back student medication. The U. S. Postal Service regulations require medication to be mailed in a nondescript package that would not indicate that the package contains medication. Schools should exercise caution for any temperature-sensitive drugs that would require refrigeration for example, the use of ice packs may be necessary.
- Are school divisions required to provide homebound instruction during school closures?
No, school divisions are not required to provide face-to-face homebound instruction during school closures. Homebound instruction is designed to provide continuity of educational services between the classroom and home or health care facility. Local school divisions should ensure that students on homebound are receiving the same opportunities as the rest of the student population with careful consideration of providing equitable access and support for a variety of students. Strategies such as distance learning can be accessible to students confined to their home or health care facility. Please note that special accommodations or modifications may need to be made for students with 504 plans or IEPS (see Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities-This is a Word document. for more information).
- Is there a way for schools and school divisions to donate materials (gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, etc.) that may be useful to healthcare providers?
Many school divisions and schools are working with their local health departments or hospitals in order to donate materials. The guidance from the VDOE is for school personnel to consider maintaining a record of donated items in case there is available federal or state reimbursement for COVID -19 expenses shared at a later date.
- USDA flexibility for school meals during extended closure?
Superintendent's Memo 070-20 on meal flexibilities and a waiver process using the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option during school closures was posted on Friday March 13, 2020: COVID-19: School Nutrition Program and Meal Options-This is a Word document..
- Can we open our cafeterias to serve meals?
As schools are currently closed under the Governor’s executive order, they therefore should not be open for typical group school meals service. Instead, in support of social distancing, divisions are distributing “non-congregate” meals via grab-and-go kiosks at school sites or providing community delivery. All children 18 and under may receive meals during the closure under the Summer Seamless Option (SSO) or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), with an approved waiver from VDOE. Children 18 and under receiving meals must be present when picking up meals. See Superintendent's Memo 070-20: COVID-19: School Nutrition Program and Meal Options-This is a Word document.. In addition, many localities are setting up or engaging companion food pantries and food bank distributions to serve school-age children and their families.
- Does the limit of 10 people apply to meal programs?
Non-congregate feeding implemented includes social-distancing.
- What about 65 year olds serving or delivering meals?
This is a local decision and would defer to public health and CDC guidelines.
- Can divisions serve multiple days of food at once?
School Food Authorities (SFAs) can provide multiple days worth of meals with an approved waiver and application in place with the VDOE. This is a good option for decreasing contact and increasing ease of access for families. Home delivery can also occur. This requires written parental consent. Please contact your SNP Regional Specialist or Sandy Curwood at email@example.com for assistance.
- Can divisions serve food without their child present?
Federal Child Nutrition Program guidelines require the child to be present to receive a meal. The VDOE does not have the authority to waive or grant flexibility to federal law. The VDOE has requested additional guidance from USDA to address this concern. The VDOE advises local school divisions to maintain program integrity, in order to ensure programs can continue to be provided and that divisions continue to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The VDOE also recognizes that divisions want to serve their families needs and that frontline staff may be ill-equipped to deal with stressed parents. The VDOE urges local school divisions to equip staff with the information and preparation necessary to ensure adherence to program guidelines as well as making decisions in the best interest of children.
- How should schools provide free meals to students who are experiencing homelessness and students placed in foster care who are enrolled in their school of origin but Living in another school division?
Students experiencing homelessness and those placed in foster care are categorically eligible for free school meals. During the current school closures, students may receive their meals in the community in which they currently live. Foster care liaisons and homeless education liaisons should communicate with their families and inform them of the resources and options in the community where the family currently resides. School division liaisons have been sharing their processes and connecting with their families. In addition, some school divisions have transported meals to out-of-district families with children enrolled in their schools. A listing of foster care liaisons can be found at: https://education.wm.edu/centers/hope/fostercare/index.php; the homeless education listing can be found at: https://education.wm.edu/centers/hope/liaison-listing/. Additional questions related to the education of students in foster care and students experiencing homelessness can be directed to Project HOPE-Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data Collection and Technology
- How do we handle March 30 ADM?
For the April 17 deadline of the Spring SRC data submission that will be used for the March 31 average daily membership (ADM) calculation, the SRC data submitted as of March 31 and the March 31 ADM calculation for this year will remain the same with the exception that student membership (in ADM numerator) and days in session (in ADM denominator) will be excluded from the ADM formula for the days schools are closed up to March 31. Please see the previous VDOE COVID-19 FAQs sent on March 11, 2020, for additional information on student accounting and daily attendance when schools remain open for students.
- Will the state waive the 15-day drop period for students?
The VDH recommends that students that are absent due to COVID-19 illness, related quarantine or social distancing not be dropped from school enrollment in order to allow for continuity in education. Virginia regulations (8VAC20-110-130) state that students “shall be dropped from the roll and marked “withdrawn”...3. When a pupil has been absent for 15 consecutive days or more”. Based on the guidance from the VDH, school divisions may continue enrollment for students known to be absent due to illness, related quarantine or social distancing for COVID-19. Please be aware that this guidance is specific to the COVID-19 outbreak occurring during the 2019-2020 school year.
- How should divisions track students who were absent because of COVID-19 in the Student Information Systems?
The VDOE encourages divisions to maintain attendance records of any student known to be absent due to COVID-19 prior to school closures on March 16. This information would be required if a school wanted to appeal the chronic absenteeism indicator rating in accreditation. Once schools closed on March 16, students are not considered absent. Additionally, while VDOE is not aware of any future data requests or collections from state or federal agencies for student information, it is easier for divisions to track the data as it happens compared to later should a new data collection be mandated. Please note: VDOE can only collect such information if it was mandated by state code, federal law, or regulation.
- How should schools handle absences in cases where parents chose to keep their students at home due to fear of exposure (i.e. no illness or recommendation for self-quarantine) prior to school closures on March 16?
Many schools, parents, and guardians expressed concern about student absences related to COVID-19 safety concerns prior to school closures on March 16. Virginia attendance regulations (8VAC20-730-10) allow school leaders to excuse absences for a reason acceptable to the school administration, which may include illness or mental health conditions. School divisions have the authority to define their “acceptable reason” for excused absences. The VDOE knows that community fears were high as identified cases increased, particularly for families with loved ones living in the home who have a compromised immune system. The VDOE recommends that school divisions excuse absences prior to March 16 that were related to COVID-19.
- How should school divisions manage new enrollment during the closures?
This is ultimately a local decision. Local school divisions that have kept administrative offices open during the closure can continue enrolling students. This may also help school divisions prevent any administrative lag for students as they will be able to begin classes as soon as schools reopen. Those local school divisions that continue with enrollment should consider using virtual options.
- What should LEAs do in regards to student enrollment, including Kindergarten, during the mandated school closure?
LEAs should create a process to receive enrollment. Recognizing that enrollment is an essential business function, school divisions should be open for all student enrollments. LEAs should require the number of individuals present for enrollment be below 10 and follow appropriate social distancing and hygiene precautions for anything transactions that cannot be facilitated online. Scheduled appointments are recommended to avoid gatherings of 10 or more individuals including school division personnel.
- Will the deadline for Spring Student Record Collection be extended?
Yes, but only by one week. The new deadline is April 24, 2020. The extra week was added to give school divisions more time to coordinate data verification by multiple people in schools and central office after a successful submission. The deadline for Spring Student Record Collection is based on when March 31 ADM data is needed for funding formulas to determine final Standards of Quality payments (such as basic aid) to school divisions as enacted in the Appropriations Act. One week is all the extra time that can be given to still meet required state funding requirements.
- Will there be extensions granted for end-of-year reporting to VDOE?
The VDOE is not aware of any extensions, at this time, for end-of-year reporting to the Department.
- What changes in dates or waivers has the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced, and how do schools find out which Internet Service Providers are offering COVID-19 promotions?
The FCC has extended the FY 2020 Application Filing to April 29, 2020 at 11:59 PM. During this time, PIA reviews will continue and applicants will receive PIA inquiries. The FCC waived the E-rate Program Gift Rule until September 30, 2020. The FCC is also allowing school Wi-Fi networks to be used by the community in school parking lots. In addition, the VDOE encourages divisions to contact their local ISP and mobile wireless carriers to find out about their COVID-19 promotions. And as of March 25, 2020, mobile wireless carriers announced that mobile devices are on back-order due to inventory.
- How should schools handle absenteeism where attendance interventions were interrupted prior to school closures on March 16?
Schools are not expected to continue to develop plans for students whose 5th unexcused absence occurred in the few days prior to school closures on March 16, and schools are not expected to continue to hold attendance conferences for students whose 7th unexcused absence occurred inside the 10-day conference requirement window prior to school closures on March 16. To accommodate schools during the closures, new data collection codes were added for the Attendance Plan and Attendance Conference fields. These codes may be used for those students whose attendance plans or conferences were pending but did not take place due to the school closure. For all other students outside of the 10-day conference window, existing codes should be used. For students who were dropped due to 15 or more consecutive absences prior to the school closure, it is a local decision on how to provide supports and interventions for these students. Local school divisions that have kept administrative offices open during the closure can re-enroll these students and prepare interventions for them as soon as schools reopen.
Teacher Education and Licensure
- What if individuals holding provisional licenses expiring June 30, 2020, cannot meet the requirements for a renewable license this year due to circumstances related to COVID-19?
Section 22.1-299 of the Code of Virginia allows the Board to extend for at least one additional year, but for no more than two additional years, the three-year provisional license of a teacher upon receiving from the division superintendent (i) a recommendation for such extension and (ii) satisfactory performance evaluations for such teacher for each year of the original three-year provisional license. Flexibility beyond what is provided in the Code will require General Assembly review and action. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene at the end of April, at which point, VDOE will provide additional information for individuals with provisional licenses expiring on June 30, 2020.
- What if an individual with a renewable license that expires June 30, 2020, cannot complete renewal requirements due to COVID-19?
If license holders employed by a Virginia educational agency have completed the requirements for renewal, the educational agency should submit the renewal requests as soon as practicable to avoid any administrative delays. If license holders are unable to meet renewal requirements by June 30 because of COVID-19, the Superintendent of Public Instruction will make modifications to the licensure regulations to grant a one-year extension of the license (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) to allow license holders to complete all renewal requirements. License holders employed by Virginia educational agencies should not submit renewal documents to the VDOE; they are to be sent to the employing school division or accredited nonpublic school. Please note that Virginia employing educational agencies will be provided additional instructions related to the format and timeline for submitting requests for extensions.
In the past, the Department of Education has not extended licenses for individuals who are not employed in a Virginia educational agency. However, individuals holding a renewable license that expires June 30, 2020, who are not employed in a Virginia educational agency and could not complete renewal requirements due to COVID-19 also may request a one-year extension of their licenses. A form to request an extension will be posted on the Licensure Webpage with additional instructions by May 1, 2020.
- If a teacher is seeking an initial Virginia license and has not yet attained an industry certification credential, what should an employing school division or educational agency request?
Section 22.1-298.1 of the Code of Virginia states, in part, the following:
A. As used in this section:
- …"Industry certification credential" means an active career and technical education credential that is earned by successfully completing a Board of Education-approved industry certification examination, being issued a professional license in the Commonwealth, or successfully completing an occupational competency examination….
- …5. Every teacher seeking an initial license in the Commonwealth with an endorsement in the area of career and technical education shall have an industry certification credential in the area in which the teacher seeks endorsement. If a teacher seeking an initial license in the Commonwealth has not attained an industry certification credential in the area in which the teacher seeks endorsement, the Board may, upon request of the employing school division or educational agency, issue the teacher a provisional license to allow time for the teacher to attain such credential…
- What if individuals cannot complete the hands-on cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR training required for an initial teaching license or license renewal?
Training in emergency first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and the use of automated external defibrillators can be completed through online programs. However, state law also requires that CPR training include hands-on practice of the skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The Superintendent of Public Instruction is unable to waive the hands-on CPR requirement because it is required by § 22.1-298.1 of the Code of Virginia; this will require General Assembly review and action. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene at the end of April, at which point, VDOE will provide additional information regarding the hands-on CPR training requirement.
- What is the impact of school closings on candidates completing student teaching or internships this semester in educator preparation programs at Virginia colleges and universities?
The VDOE has communicated with deans and directors of educator preparation programs to address concerns that candidates currently enrolled in student teaching may not be able to complete the Board of Education 10-week student teaching requirement or internship requirements for programs, such as administration and supervision, due to school closings. Any modification request from deans or directors of educator preparation programs will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. A form will be provided to institutions of higher education to request a modification.
- What if the school division has not conducted performance evaluations this school year?
Pursuant to the Code of Virginia, evaluation of instructional personnel is the responsibility of the local school division. The VDOE suggests that consult school divisions consult their school board attorneys regarding this matter. Please note that performance evaluations also apply to other circumstances, such as requesting provisional license extensions and achieving continuing contract status. Similarly, we recommend school divisions consider local policy in consultation with their school board attorney to determine continuing contract status.
- Many of our teachers tied standardized assessment results to their annual evaluation and Standard 7. What guidance can be provided for the handling of teacher evaluations in the absence of end-of-year assessments?
The Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers incorporate student academic progress as a significant component of the evaluation while encouraging local flexibility in implementation. The Code of Virginia requires that student academic progress be a significant component of the evaluation. How student academic progress is met is the responsibility of local school boards provided that Performance Standard 7: Student Academic Progress is not the least weighted of the performance standards or less than 1 (10 percent); however, it may be weighted equally as one of the multiple lowest weighted standards.
Performance ratings are not made at the performance indicator level, but at the performance standard level. The Performance Standard 7 is as follows:
Performance Standard 7: Student Academic Progress
The work of the teacher results in acceptable, measurable, and appropriate student academic progress.
It is important to document a teacher’s performance on each standard with evidence generated from multiple performance indicators. Multiple data sources provide for a comprehensive and authentic “performance portrait” of the teacher’s work.
There are teachers for whom validated achievement measures are not available. In these situations, student goal setting provides an approach that quantifies student academic progress in meaningful ways and is an appropriate option for measuring student academic progress documents online.
The Virginia employing educational agency may request the issuance of a provisional license for an individual seeking an initial license in a career and technical education area to allow the teacher time to earn an industry certification credential.
- Can a local school board meet electronically without a quorum physically assembled?
Section 2.2-3708.2 of the Code of Virginia provides that a school board may meet by electronic communication means without a quorum assembled in one location when the Governor has declared a state of emergency, in accordance with § 44-146.17, provided that (1) the catastrophic nature of the declared emergency makes it impracticable or unsafe to assembly a quorum in a single location, AND (2) the purpose of the meeting is to address the emergency. If a meeting is held pursuant to this section, the school board must give public notice using the best available method given the nature of the emergency contemporaneously with the notice provided members of the school board AND make arrangements for public access to the meeting. The nature of the emergency, the fact that the meeting was held by electronic communication means and the type of electronic communication means by which the meeting was held are stated in the minutes of the meeting. Continue to work with your local school board attorney to ensure any school board meeting held during the declared state of emergency meets all of the requirements of Freedom of Information Act.
Attorney General Herring has issued an advisory opinion on March 20, 2020 outlining the authority of public bodies, including local governments, to conduct meetings and critical public business while meeting social distancing needs and important transparency and accountability obligations. The opinion says that Virginia law allows public bodies to conduct meetings electronically if “the purpose of the meeting is to address the emergency,” which includes meeting “to make decisions that must be made immediately and where failure to do so could result in irrevocable public harm.”
The opinion also outlines important limitations, saying that “the General Assembly did not intend to permit public bodies to handle all business through electronic communication means, even during a declared emergency,” and that “public bodies should carefully consider whether taking a given action during a meeting held by electronic communication means is truly essential and should defer any and all decisions that can be deferred until it is once again possible to meet in person.” Finally, the opinion reinforces that important public accountability and transparency measures must be followed even during an electronic meeting or an emergency, including the need for public access, proper public notice, publicly available agendas, roll-call votes, and recorded minutes. For more information review the opinion in its entirety at the following link.
State Education Agency
- Will OMEGA reimbursement continue to be approved?
- Will VDOE be open, especially Licensure?
Yes, at this time the VDOE and other state agencies (with the exception of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)) will remain open.