The mass closure of schools nationwide in response to the COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus, is also grinding school bus operations to a halt.
According to Education Week, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland along with D.C. are closing for at least the next three weeks. In addition, 167 individual schools throughout the nation have also announced closures and extensions of spring break.
Since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday afternoon, 10 additional states announced school closures. They are: Alabama, Wisconsin, Washington state, West Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Utah.
Some school districts in Texas that School Transportation News spoke with on Thursday, as it was making the decision to postpone the TSD Conference, indicated they plan to continue business operations for all employees amid the extended closures. But the full impact on all student transporters nationwide, especially hourly school bus drivers, remains unknown.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced on Thursday the use of federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The release states that while spring is typically when most state administrators issue statewide assessments, the DOE said it will work with states to provide some flexibility to all levels of local government due to the impact of the coronavirus.
Under the ESEA states are required to annually administer assessments in reading/language arts, mathematics, and science to all students in tested grades and an annual assessment of English language proficiency to all English learners.
The DOE explained that some schools may be closed during the entire testing window, and it may not be feasible for states to administer some or all of its assessments. That said, the DOE would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for the schools impacted by these unforeseen circumstances.
The DOE also urged schools to consider whether it is possible to adjust or extend the testing window to accommodate as many students as possible.
It would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the requirements to identify a school for comprehensive or targeted support and improvement. It also announced it would consider a one-year waiver for an impacted school to not factor the participation rate of the assessment into its Academic Achievement Indicator, as the ESEA requires that 95 percent of the student population participate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued interim guidance to help administrators of public and private childcare programs and K-12 schools plan for and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Schools working with local health departments have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases and protecting vulnerable students and staff, the CDC stated on its website. It shared that all decisions about implementing school-based strategies should be made locally, in collaboration with local health officials who can help determine the level of transmission in the community.
The CDC states what to do when a confirmed case has entered a school, regardless of community transmission.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also addressed the department’s ongoing commitment to feeding low-income children when schools close, during Thursday’s Readout of the U.S. Department of Education’s Coronavirus Conference Call with Cheif State School Officers. The USDA stated it intends to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve program participants across their 15 nutrition programs. It has already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of the participants.
This article has been updated on Friday afternoon to indicate that ten more states have now closed schools due to the outbreak. Also, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.
School Transportation News will provide additional updates as they become available.