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Special Education Guidance From DESE

COVID-19 Information and Resources HERE

This page will provide information for schools about the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and will be updated as additional guidance is available. For comprehensive emergency management planning information and related resources, visit the emergency management planning for schools web pages.

School Meals

On March 12, the USDA approved Massachusetts’ waiver request to allow schools where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals to continue providing meals to students during a school closure. We also received approval to have these meals served in an appropriate format, such as a “grab-and-go” option, for students to take home.

On March 13, DESE sent out detailed guidance to all school districts and existing USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors detailing how to be approved to serve meals during a school closure and what the USDA reimbursement options are. Community-based organizations that participated in SFSP during summer 2019 are eligible to serve and claim meals for reimbursement to help supplement school districts’ meal distribution effort.

Schools that have a student free and reduced-price percentage under 50 percent can choose to provide meals at their own discretion during a school closure, but DESE cannot currently approve those meals for USDA reimbursement. Therefore, non-federal funds must be used to cover costs at this time. These schools should focus on households of enrolled free and reduced-price students and ensure that proper meal counting and adherence to the federal meal pattern is maintained in the event we receive new USDA guidance allowing federal reimbursement.

Schools need to contact their assigned DESE School Nutrition or Special Nutrition (SFSP option) Program consultants to discuss how to be approved for USDA reimbursement.

As meal distribution sites are approved, DESE will work with Project Bread to ensure the public is notified of student meal site locations and service times. In the meantime, please promote meal sites locally.

Counselors at Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 are available to connect your community to food resources in their community as well as provide them with information about elder meals programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The hotline will continue to operate Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and can provide information in 160 languages.

Non-congregate meal site information can now be found through Project Bread’s School Closure Meal Site Finder

DESE Resources:

School Closure Process:

As of March 16, 2020, all public and private K-12 schools (except residential and day schools that serve students with disabilities) will be closed starting March 17 and will not reopen before April 6. Schools or districts that decide to be closed beyond those parameters are asked to:

  1. Contact their local Board of Health. District leaders may also wish to call DPH’s 24/7 epidemiology at 617-983-6800 but should be aware of the large volume of calls coming into that number.
  2. Contact Associate Commissioner Helene Bettencourt at Helene.H.Bettencourt@mass.gov  or 781-338-3120.

Large Events:

On March 13, 2020, Governor Baker issued an emergency order prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 individuals beginning on March 17 and effective until April 6.

180 School Day Requirement:

In light of concerns about possible school closings for public health reasons, Commissioner Riley has updated DESE’s guidance about the requirement for 180 days of school to provide relief to districts. (Note: The Department will continue to revisit this guidance if the situation warrants it.):

  1. All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between the first day of the school year and March 15 must be made up by rescheduling full school days to ensure a 180-day school year.
  2. All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between March 16 and June 1 must be made up to ensure a 180-day school year or until the district has reached its previously-scheduled 185th day, whichever comes first. If all five snow days have been used prior to this point, the district is not required to scheduled additional school days.
  3. Districts will not be expected to make up any days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies that occur after June 1.

This change means that if you have already canceled school for five days before March 15, you do not need to schedule additional make-up days for any days that school is closed after March 15. The longest that any school district will be required to go is its scheduled 185th day. No schools will be required to be in session after June 30. This policy applies to the current (2019-20) school year only. Anyone who feels that they have special circumstances should contact Associate Commissioner Helene Bettencourt at Helene.H.Bettencourt@mass.gov  or 781-338-3120.

Resources:

Federal

State

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