In response to COVID-19 emergency and school closures, the General Assembly passed Amended House Bill 197 on March 25. All of these provisions will be effective once the Governor signs the bill, which should occur shortly.
Key provisions of HB 197 for educators include the following:
- Online Learning and Blizzard Bags: The General Assembly expressed its intent that schools continue “to provide ways to keep students actively engaged in learning opportunities between March 17, 2020 and the remainder of the school year.” As such, brick-and-mortar schools are now permitted to provide students with and be credited for instruction hour purposes any online lessons or blizzard bags to access and complete classroom lessons. Previously, such use was limited to three days of instructional hours. Use of Blizzard Bags must be approved by the School’s governing authority, and any existing plan may be amended to provide for the number of hours the schools were closed as a part of the mandatory closure.
- Food Service: During the period of closure, schools transporting meals during the closure period are exempt from food processing, packaging or handling regulations if the schools (1) already hold a food service operation license and (2) provide meals using the Seamless Summer Option Program or the Summer Food Service Program, pursuant to the recent USDA waiver.
- Special Education Service Requirements: During the closure period, schools may provide special education services electronically or via telehealth communication without penalty. Services must continue to be provided by an appropriately licensed individual. Additional guidance will follow regarding special education deadlines. Note that any schools providing online lessons or blizzard bags as credit for instructional hours must also provide a free appropriate public education for students with disabilities—i.e., they must find ways to provide services in accordance with or consistent with the student’s IEP.
- Open Meetings: During the closure, a public body, including a school board, may hold meetings using teleconferences or video conferences. Members will be considered present for quorum purposes and eligible to vote. All formal action taken by the board during the meeting, including adoption of any resolutions or rules, will have the same effect as if the meeting were conducted in person. Public access to meetings held via teleconference or video conference must ensure that the public can observe and hear the discussions and deliberations of all of the members of the board. Notice of any public meeting held via teleconference or video conference must be provided at least 24 hours prior to the meeting using a reasonable method that would allow the public to determine the time, place, and manner in which the meeting will be held. In the event of an emergency where the board must take immediate action, notice of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting must be provided to any media outlet that requests it immediately. NOTE: This change in law will supersede our prior guidance to avoid major decisions, ratify all actions, and forego board compensation. Subject to any further guidance from the Auditor of State, such mitigating actions are no longer necessary.
- Waiver of State Testing Requirements: For the 2019-2020 school year only, schools are not required to administer any state assessments.
- School Report Cards: The Department will not assign schools overall letter grades or individual component grades for the 2019-2020 report cards. However, ODE will continue to report any underlying data that is has regarding school building performance for the 2019-2020 school year. The absence of a report card for the 2019-2020 school year will not excuse community schools already subject to mandatory closure in the 2020-2021 school year, or that would otherwise be prohibited from changing sponsors due to prior report card scores. In other words, for automatic closure purposes, the three-year clock will not restart.
- Third Grade Guarantee: Schools shall not retain students in third grade based solely the student’s 2019-2020 academic performance in reading unless the principal and the student’s reading teacher agree that the student is reading below grade level and is not prepared to advance to fourth grade.
- Graduation: For the 2019-2020 school year, any 12th grade student (regardless of whether they are in the 2020 cohort) who was on track to graduate but has not completed the course and assessment requirements for graduation will be granted a high school diploma if the principal / superintendent, in consultation with teachers and counselors, reviews the student’s progress towards graduation and determines that the student successfully completed the curriculum (or IEP) at the time of the closure period began. Diplomas may only be issued under this exception until September 30, 2020.
- Schools with graduation requirements beyond the state minimum course credit requirements may elect to hold students to the state minimum for graduation for the 2019-2020 school year to determine if the student successfully completed the curriculum.
- Access to In-Person Instructional Experiences to Complete Career-Tech Requirements: The General Assembly expressed its intent that schools will grant students access to school facilities as soon as reasonably possible (even if the last day of the school’s calendar year has ended) in order to allow students to complete career-tech requirements.
- 22+ Diploma Program: The Superintendent of Public Instruction must collaborate with 22+ Adult Diploma Program providers to ensure that providers have the “maximum flexibility to assist students whose progress has been affected” by the mandatory school closures, including through waivers or extensions of deadlines to allow students additional time to complete program requirements.
- Teacher Evaluations: Schools are prohibited from using value-added progress dimension scores to measure student learning for the 2019-2020 OTES evaluations.
- Teacher Licensure: ODE may issue 1-year, nonrenewable provisional licenses for any educational license so long as the individual has met all licensure qualifications except for passing required exams.
- Waiver of Statutory Deadlines for Action: The Superintendent of Public Instruction may extend or waive any deadline for action required by the State Board of Education or ODE during the period of mandatory closure.