Teachers are faced with a series of ever-changing circumstances in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now, decisions on school closures are being made at the local level. As of now, all schools in Missouri are closed, and Gov. Parson has asked they remain closed until April 6.
MSTA sent letters to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Missouri legislators in Washington, D.C., asking for testing requirements to be waived this year. Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announced that assessments are canceled in Missouri, and Missouri schools will not be required to make up days lost because of COVID-19.
MSTA is collecting a list of resources to help you engage with your students while schools are close.
MSTA has compiled this list of answers to frequently asked questions to help school employees navigate this time. Please understand this a fluid situation that can change by the hour. We will update as things continue to change.
Updated March 24, 2020
- No, but there might be consequences for choosing to keep personal travel plans. Travel recommendations and restrictions are changing daily. Potential travelers should monitor the CDC’s guidelines. See the above conversation for specifics.
A. Most districts have policy language that includes a requirement to provide safe working environments (Policy GBE). That requirement is very nebulous, so there isn’t much actual direction. The CDC has guidance regarding how to clean and disinfect schools to help slow the spread of viruses. OSHA also has COVID-19 specific guidance for employers. School districts should obviously take as many preventative measures as possible and follow guidance from federal, state and local health officials. Here
A. There is not currently any federal or state guidance that allows employers to force employees to share travel plans when they are not working. While the CDC has provided guidance on travel restrictions, an employer is not in charge of enforcing those guidelines. Therefore we do not believe districts have the authority to issue blanket requests for all travel. Districts probably are, however, allowed to ask specifically about travel to areas that are listed on the CDC’s website as areas of particular concern. We should require districts asking for this information to provide the legal justification for such a request.
A. There may not be a legal requirement, but there is certainly an ethical obligation to do so.
A. No, the Department of Labor recently released guidance reminding employers they are only required to pay non-exempt employees for hours actually worked. This would apply to hours missed due to illness, quarantine or school closure.
A. Assuming the employee is “ready and willing to work” but for the closure, we believe the district is required to pay the contracted employee per the contract.
A. We think so, but it is not clear right now. The US Department of Labor issued brand new guidance that allows (but doesn’t force) states to take measures to cover these individuals. The obvious goal is to cover as many people as possible, but Missouri has not indicated whether or not they are going to follow the guidance. The new rules would allow benefits if: (1) the district closes, (2) the employee is quarantined or (3) the employee leaves employment due to risk of infection or to care for a family member.
A: The Governor has indicated that schools will be closed until April 6, though that date may change. Childcare and Food and Nutrition Services can still be offered. Local municipalities may be instituting more restrictive policies so please check your community.
As of March 21, the White House and Governor’s office are making the same recommendations. Specifically, to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people”. In addition, the Governor and the President urge people to work from home if they can. The Governor defined a social gathering as “any planned or spontaneous event or convening that would bring together more than ten (10) people in a single space at the same time.”
A. Governor Parson issued a new order covering social distancing on March 21. As part of that order, he stated that the order “does not prohibit schools from providing child care and Food and nutritional Services for those children that qualify. Teachers and staff may enter the building as long as they follow the directives set forth in the Order.”
A. If school districts choose to offer distance learning opportunities for their regular education students, they are required to offer FAPE for special education students. The federal Department of Education released guidance stating they would be providing flexibility to allow school districts to meet the requirements of IDEA in the current environment. The DOE also indicated that districts can provide services in an equally effective alternative manner if technology itself imposes a barrier or the educational materials are not available in an accessible format.
A. Governor Parson has waived the requirement of remaining on-site classroom and school visits for candidates already participating in culminating experiences and internships in the current academic term. You can see the full announcement:
A. If no election was necessary (three candidates and three spots; not contested) the candidates shall assume the responsibilities of the office as if the election had been held on April 7 as scheduled.
For all contested elections (more candidates than spots), all incumbents shall continue to hold office until their successors are duly elected and appointed. So, they stay until the election can be held.
You can learn more about the changes to the law in the blog post from staff attorney Scott Smith.
The third aid package of $2 Trillion intended to speed the relief across the American economy.
There are seven main groups identified in the Act. The following is information on sections most germane to our Members, including $560 Billion for individuals and $43.7 Billion for Education.
• Cash payments of $1200 per adult earning up to $75,000. Married couples would each receive a check and families would get $500 per child. That means a family of four earning less than $150,000 can expect $3,400. These checks are non-taxable.
o Amounts will be decreased by $5 for every $100 over $75,000 earned by an individual (Based on 2018 or 2019 tax return). The cut-off is slightly higher for individuals filing as heads of households.
o Those on SS retirement or disability are also eligible for the aid check.
o See irs.gov/coronavirus for more information.
• Expanded unemployment eligibility and benefits
o $600 weekly benefit in addition to state unemployment benefits until July 31, 2020.
o Freelancers, contractors, gig, and self-employed workers, directly impacted by this public health emergency, will now be eligible for unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, available until December 31, 2020. This could impact those who supplement their income with part-time work such as driving an Uber.
o 13 weeks of unemployment insurance will be available for people nearing the end of state unemployment to get an extension. New filers will also be allowed to collect the benefits for the longer period.
• Student Loan and interest payment deferral
o Many borrowers will be temporarily relieved of payments-including principal and interest-on most federally held student loans through September 30, 2020. This temporary pause does NOT apply to private student loans, Perkins loans or FFEL loans.
o This temporary pause in payments is automatic. If someone contacts you to fill out paperwork or asks for money, it is a scam and you should report the party to the Federal Trade Commission.
o Borrowers get six months towards Loan Forgiveness and Loan Rehabilitation Programs such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.