March 23rd COVID-19 Update

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Baker Administration  “stay at home advisory,” and order on essential services, closing certain workplaces, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people:

The Baker Administration issued an order mandating that effective Tuesday March 24, all non-essential businesses close physical workplaces to all workers, customers and public until Tuesday, April 7 at noon. The order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-23-2020-essential-services-and-revised-gatherings-order/download

The Baker Administration provided the following list of essential services:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services/download

To request designation as an essential business, please click here: https://www.mass.gov/forms/essential-service-designation-request 

Department of Public Health guidance to hospitals regarding implementation of alternative, acute, inpatient care space:

DPH issued new guidance to hospitals regarding the implementation of alternative, acute, inpatient care space during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

A full list of DPH guidance to hospitals can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives

DUA Virtual Town Halls on Unemployment Benefits:  

In order to better meet the needs of residents whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19, the Department of Unemployment Assistance will continue hosting daily town hall meetings to help constituents achieve a successful unemployment claim. DUA will also take questions from claimants across the Commonwealth. 

Sign up information for the virtual town halls is available at https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-dua-virtual-town-halls

Attorney General offering webinars on housing rights and scams:

The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division is offering webinars to assist service providers and community members.

  • The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division will hold a webinar on landlord/tenant rights on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 10:30 AM. This webinar will be in Spanish.
  • The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division will hold a webinar on scams and identity theft on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 10:30 AM. This webinar will be in Spanish.
  • The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division will hold a webinar on landlord/tenant rights on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 10:30 AM. 

More information is available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/office-of-attorney-general-maura-healey-webinar-week-tickets-99353709620.

Division of Insurance guidance to commercial carriers:

DOI issued an order instructing commercial carriers tol be appropriately flexible to help members maintain their existing coverage, including grace-periods and having staff available to explain the purchase COBRA. 

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-05-flexibility-in-the-issuance-and-administration-of-insurance-during-covid-19/download

Department of Agricultural Resources launches COVID-19 resource page:

MDAR has created a website with all COVID-19 resources relevant to agriculture. MDAR’s COVID-19 website is here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/covid-19-resources-for-agriculture

Department of Environmental Protection order to ensure continuity of waste and recycling collection:

The Baker Administration announced the issuance of an emergency order to ensure that intrastate waste and recycling collection and disposal will continue uninterrupted during the COVID-19 emergency. Due to the essential nature of these services and anticipated impacts due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Administration’s order provides relief from state and federal requirements that govern the hours of service allowed for commercial vehicle operators involved in waste and recycling transportation and collection, while maintaining important safety protections and measures. 

The Administration’s action will help support continuity of waste and recycling operations by helping to ensure availability of adequate staffing resources throughout this emergency, and is consistent with the State of Emergency declared by Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The order will remain in effect until April 12, 2020 unless the Administration determines otherwise. 

Summary of Department of Elementary and Secondary guidance:

DESE has provided a summary of its COVID-19 guidance.

Web pages related to special education services:http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/covid19.html

Web pages related to educator preparation programs: http://www.doe.mass.edu/edprep/covid19.html 

Web pages related to college, career, and technical education: http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=25973

School meals: A link to Project Bread’s School Closure Meal Site Finder (https://meals4kids.org/summer)  is now on DESE’s COVID-19 page: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html At this point, federal reimbursement is only available for meals served in areas where at least 50 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Districts that are not currently eligible for federal reimbursement can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Area Eligibility Mapper (https://www.fns.usda.gov/areaeligibility) to use census data to try to identify a location where they could serve meals and be reimbursed. Districts can also serve grab-and-go meals to eligible students even if those students make up less than 50 percent of a given school or district. However, those districts are not currently eligible for federal reimbursement. 

Academics: Students should be doing as much learning as possible while they are at home, and DESE is working to make this easier. Staff in the Center for Instructional Support have assembled a list of resources (http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/ed-resources.html) that districts can add to their own, and DESE is working with public broadcaster WGBH and its partner station WGBY to provide other resources. Educators have free access to PBS LearningMedia (https://mass.pbslearningmedia.org/) and the stations’ newly created online distance learning center (https://www.wgbh.org/distance-learning-center). In recognition of the fact that not every student has a computer and internet access, and in addition to existing programming, WGBH plans to expand its educational broadcasting from noon to 5:00 p.m. weekdays on the WORLD Channel. The WORLD Channel is a 24/7 WGBH channel that offers news and documentaries and which is now shifting some of its schedule to meet this urgent need. (More information on where to find the WORLD Channel on WGBH and WGBY is available online.) Additional guidance from DESE will be forthcoming.

Adult education: The Department has closed adult basic education and English for speakers of other languages programs, as well as post-secondary and workforce training programs that are taught in public school buildings, public colleges and universities, and community-based organizations. At this point, DESE hopes to reopen the adult education programs when schools reopen.

MCAS: The Department is exploring all options around this year’s testing requirements. To date, DESE has postponed both the Grade 10 English language arts assessment scheduled to begin on March 24 and the opening of the grades 3-8 English language arts assessment window scheduled for March 30. The Department will keep districts informed of decisions related to the spring 2020 assessment schedule and the competency determination. There may be an opportunity for a one-year assessment and accountability waiver from the federal government, but even if that is granted, we would need legislative relief from our state legislature to waive the state law around the testing requirement.

Please be advised that MCAS-Alt portfolios do not need to be submitted by April 3, nor is it necessary to obtain a parent’s signature that they have reviewed the portfolio prior to submission. The Department will contact schools at a later date regarding a new submission deadline.

Districts may still submit cohort appeals (http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcasappeals/) for students in grade 12. For cohort appeals, use only the online application process. Do not submit paper-based appeals. A guide to the online application process is available for download. Please do not submit appeals for students in grades 10 or 11 at this time. Questions about this subject can be emailed to mcasappeals@doe.mass.edu.

Educator licensure: Governor Baker has issued an executive order extending licenses for certain licensed professionals (https://www.mass.gov/doc/eo-on-license-registration-extension-dpl-opsi/download), including licensed educators. The order states that a license that is “in good standing” as of March 18, 2020, and that has expired or will expire during the state of emergency, is now extended and will remain valid until 90 days after the end of the state of emergency. The Department expects to issue guidance to implement the terms of the order.

Payments to hourly employees: Commissioner Riley is strongly recommending that school districts pay their hourly employees during the current emergency school closure. Like all of us, these employees need to follow public health directives and take care of themselves and their families. While they do so, school districts could ask them to continue their learning by reading educational articles, books, taking an online class or performing other tasks that could be a benefit to the school districts. Districts must be able to quickly resume providing services to students as soon as schools re-open, and in order to do that, they will need to have an available, ready work force, including hourly employees.

A link to DESE’s COVID-19 webpage is here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html

 

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