Thursday 4.9.2020
WFIS Weekly Update
Today’s Catch-Up
To get the most current details go to:

Washington COVID-19 :
There are now 9,097 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 37 counties, 421 deaths.
More information on the virus and projections here.

Relevant Reading
WFIS was one of several private school agencies provided the valuable and insightful white-paper Open Letter to Independent School Leaders, so we are sharing it with all of our schools.

Governor’s Announcement 4/6:
School communities were deeply saddened by the Governor’s announcement to close schools for the rest of the year. We all understand the gravity of the pandemic and want to do our part to protect the community from the spread of the virus. We are also hopeful that there may be some opportunity to bring community members back together, in some capacity, before the end of the school year.

OSPI Guidance on Allowable Building Activities
What is 'essential and necessary' for use of school buildings pertaining to federal and state law has been clarified by the OSPI Bulletin on April 8 providing clear guidelines .

Facilities should only be used for providing direct services to individual students where there is no alternative for the service delivery and both the service is necessary and essential and the use of the facility is both necessary and essential. Any gatherings within school facilities must comply with applicable social distancing directives and health guidelines. 

St ate Board of Education passes Emergency Rules on Waivers
Yesterday the SBE approved Emergency Rules that directly relate to private schools. Section 180-111-050 Emergency waiver for private schools
  1. applies to 2019-20 State Approved private schools
  2. providing them the authority to award a two-credit waiver of credits for individual student graduation requirements,
  3. permits online education as defined by RCW 28A.195.090 to have met the instructional hour requirements,
  4. waives the instructional hours and days requirement,
  5. and requires that "each private school shall notify the state board of education in a format provided by the board whether the private school is waiving requirements". (This system of notification has yet to be determined.)

*If your school has been providing students continuous education through online methods, there is no need to use a waiver of instructional hours / days. If your graduating seniors participate in the online education and you deem them having successfully learned / completed the required material, there is no need to use a waiver of gradational requirements. Schools may use their original end-of-year-date.

Graduation: Mental Health
School leaders are planning meaningful ceremonies for their seniors. Some are planning smaller ceremonies at the end of June, others larger ceremonies in August.

Seniors are struggling-- in fact many students are struggling. There is a strong sense of loss, instability and stress. The NAIS Sharing Solutions website has an area dedicated to caring for the community.  Private schools are sharing ideas about how to celebrate milestones, retain a sense of community, and help families who have lost loved ones to this virus. 

Across the country institutions of higher education are making determinations about how to deal with the unusual transcripts. The initial information we received is that GRADES will be viewed more positively than pass/fail for underclassmen. However, we await word whether this will hold true. Here is a link to a joint statement by WA Council of Presidents and the Independent Colleges of WA.

Update on the Paycheck Protection Program:
Many schools have applied and been approved for these forgivable loans. It looks like around $100 billion of the $349 billion has been allocated and more may be appropriated this week. 

Some of you are deciding whether to take this loan since it would make your school a   recipient of federal financial assistance .   This means that your school could be subject to the following federal regulations: the Age Discrimination Act, Title VI, Title IX, and Section 504 for children with special needs. This may only apply for the duration of the loan, but be aware that agreeing to any section 504 accommodations would span the time that the child is in the school and using the money for rent or mortgage payments could span the life of the building. Full legal analysis from Fisher Phillips   here.  
Please contact your attorney for more clarification on these items.

If you do receive the funds, it is advised to put the money in a separate bank account and use it for allowable expenses only. This will help ensure that you are complying with the law and will qualify for forgiveness. Since this fund was designed to keep people employed, 75% of the funds must be used for payroll expenses in order for the loan to be forgiven.

Education Stabilization Fund (Money for Schools):
Washington was allotted $213.6 million in the CARES Act for coronavirus relief for K-12 education. There was an effort to remove private schools from eligibility when the bill was passing, but CAPE and other groups in DC pushed back and we were ultimately included. Private schools should get a proportionate share of these funds in a way that is similar to the way many of you get equitable services from Title I or Title II funds now. This means that the local school district consults with each private school about their needs and arranges to meet those needs by purchasing items that remain under the control of the school district or by providing services to the school that is paid for with the funds.   This avoids direct payments to schools and the federal strings that would be attached. 

The states and school districts do not yet have regulatory guidance from the US Department of Education about how this is to be done, so local school districts cannot yet consult with private schools, but we expect this guidance to be released very soon. 

WFIS suggests that you reach out to the federal funds coordinator for the district in which you are located. Alert him or her that you are interested in consulting about The Education Relief Funds. You need to reach out to them because if your school is closed, they will have a very difficult time finding you.

If you have not participated in these programs before, but want to participate in the Education Relief Fund, reach out to your school district and find the person in charge of Title Funds. Once you have made contact with the appropriate person, it is recommended that you  begin a needs analysis  for your school that you can bring to your consultation. The allowable activities for these funds include (the relevant section of the bill text is  here ): 
  • purchasing educational technology,
  • planning for how to provide technology for online learning during closures,
  • coordination of preparedness and response efforts with government agencies,
  • giving school leaders resources to address the needs of their schools,
  • activities to support the needs of special populations (e.g. English learners, low-income, students with disabilities, homeless students),
  • purchasing supplies and training staff on how to sanitize school buildings and other facilities,
  • mental health services, and
  • planning for summer instruction either online or in person with attention to students with disabilities, English learners, low-income students, migrant students and other vulnerable groups. 

While you may have some acute needs now that could be immediately addressed (e.g. purchasing of distance education technology for students), you may also arrange to have some services delivered at a later time (e.g. scheduling deep cleaning of school facilities a month or two prior to the academic year commencing in the fall).  Any funding that is not used within one year must be returned to the US Department of Education so that it may be reallocated to other states. 

Again, we don't know yet exactly how this is going to work, and CAPE is lobbying very hard to make sure that the process benefits as many private school students as possible, but being ready for consultation as soon as the guidance is released will be helpful.

Those are the thoughts of the day…

We wish you well.
Keep the questions coming: [email protected]
WA Federation of Independent Schools | |253.912.5347