Curbside Pick-Up of Pandemic Guidance from KBS Law Group
Hot Takes from Governor Abbott's Town Hall Meeting
On March 19 th , Governor Abbott conducted a virtual town hall meeting that included participation from various state officials, including Commissioner of Education Mike Morath. During the meeting, the Governor and Commissioner Morath discussed issues related to schools in Texas amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a synopsis of the main points from the town hall meeting related to Texas schools:

  • The Executive Order issued by Governor Abbott on March 19th requires the closure of all schools in Texas, including private schools and institutions of higher education, through April 3, 2020. Certain operations of colleges and universities, such as dining operations and laboratories, may remain open if a special exception is granted by the Governor’s office. The Governor’s office will provide further guidance to college and university chancellors and presidents regarding the specific operations that can continue to be open. No such special exceptions currently apply to K-12 public and private schools.
  • It is too early to determine if Texas schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Officials will make a determination regarding the necessity for continued closure closer to April 3rd.
  • Despite the cancellation of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test, students will not be prevented from advancing to the next grade level based on not meeting STAAR requirements. Likewise, high school seniors who have not successfully completed all STAAR requirements for graduation will be allowed to graduate if they can demonstrate academic proficiency in other manners as determined by the local standards of the school district.
  • Schools are currently exploring a variety of options for distance learning, including both high tech methods that involve online resources, and low-tech methods that do not require internet access. There are also companies that are providing free internet access to families.
  • As of March 19th, there are 1,000 school meal service sites statewide providing meals to students. Parents can search for the nearest school meal service site in their community by clicking this link.   

As always, we are available to provide assistance if you have questions regarding the implications of this information for your district.
Guidance from FEMA on Procurement Under Grants Conducted During Emergency or Exigent Circumstances for COVID-19
FEMA US Homeland Security Citizen and Immigration Services Flyer Closeup
Due to the President's March 13, 2020 Nationwide Emergency Declaration for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), FEMA has issued guidance to address procurements during periods of emergency or exigent circumstances . FEMA has now officially taken the position that the Nationwide Emergency Declaration, as well as the Secretary of Health and Human Services' declaration of a Public Health Emergency for COVID-19, establish that exigent and emergency circumstances currently exist and will continue to exist throughout the duration of the Public Health Emergency.

Pursuant to FEMA's guidance, which is linked above for your convenience, districts must comply with the following procurement requirements even when emergency or exigent circumstances exist:

  • Contracts must include the required contract clauses (2 C.F.R. § 200.326 & Appendix II).
  • Contracts exceeding the federal simplified acquisition threshold ($250,000) must include the federal bonding requirements if the contract is for construction or facility improvement (2 C.F.R. § 200.325).
  • Contracts must be awarded to a responsible contractor (2 C.F.R. § 200.318(h)).
  • Districts must complete a cost or price analysis to determine that the cost or price of the contract is fair and reasonable if the contract exceeds or is expected to exceed the federal simplified acquisition threshold of $250,000 (2 C.F.R. § 200.323(a),(b)).
  • The use of cost-plus-percentage-of-cost contracting is prohibited (2 C.F.R. § 200.323(c)).
  • Use of time and materials contracts must comply with 2 C.F.R. § 200.318(j).
  • The district must follow documentation, oversight, and conflict of interest requirements among other general procurement requirements in 2 C.F.R. § 200.318. If a conflict of interest is unavoidable due to the exigent/emergency circumstances, the district must explain that in the procurement documentation.

Please let us know if you have any questions concerning FEMA's emergency procurement guidance and its implementation in your district.

Student Privacy Policy Office Publishes FAQs Regarding COVID-19's Impact on FERPA
School Records Student File Transcripts Grades College Education 3D
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Student Privacy Policy Office ("SPPO") recently published a set of FAQs to assist school districts in working with public health officials and student records made confidential by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA"). The SPPO's guidance states that the intention is to give school district officials a greater understanding of FERPA so that they can work efficiently and definitively when handling matters impacting the health or safety of students or other individuals.

The FAQs provide helpful advice on FERPA-related issues, including the circumstances in which a district may release a student's record without parental consent, to whom a student's records may be released without parental consent, and a district's record-keeping obligations when a student's records are released pursuant to FERPA's health and safety exception. 

We will continue to monitor guidance from the SPPO concerning the release of confidential student records, as issues in this arena will likely become more nuanced and complex during the ongoing public health crisis. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help your district with this arena.
There will be much more information to consider in the upcoming days and weeks. Our KBS family (pictured here in a grouping of more than 10) will continue to have you and your families in our thoughts and prayers, and we will keep in touch to help our Texas schools get through this pandemic. Please contact us if there is anything you need.