MA Charter Schools COVID-19 Information and Resources
This webpage addresses issues that are specific to Massachusetts Charter Schools during the state's COVID-19 emergency. Please continue to check the Department's main COVID-19 webpage as more information becomes available. Questions can be directed to . email@example.com
Special Education Guidance
COVID-19 Information and Resources for Special Educators will provide information for Special Education Directors about the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and will be updated as additional guidance is available. Please contact with your questions. Melissa Gordon
English Learner Guidance
On our COVID-19 site, on the "Learning at Home" section, there is a section titled: "Educational Resources for Students and Families." It contains updated guidance from the Department's Office of Language Acquisition (Guidance on Remote Learning for English Learners) as well as additional online tools that provide content in multiple languages. We hope you find these resources useful as you provide assistance to English Learners remotely.
School Finance and Grants
Charter School Tuition and Statewide Closure
Charter school tuition is based on enrollment data, not days of attendance. FY20 Tuition payments will continue.
Payments to vendors
The Department has issued guidance that recommends continued payments for outsourced operational services that are needed to ensure continuity of essential services when schools reopen. Such payments may be conditioned on negotiated changes to contracts in order to address unanticipated service needs during the state of emergency. These services include, but are not limited to, transportation, custodial, and food services.
Department staff are working to determine guidance about particular expenses - such as transportation - for which charter schools receive a reimbursement.
Paying hourly employees
The Commissioner also released guidance strongly recommending that charter schools 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, schools 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.
For the benefit of the students we serve, we believe it will be important to maintain continuity of operations during the period of school closures. You must be able to quickly resume providing services to students as soon as schools re-open. In order for schools to accomplish that, they will need to have an available, ready work force, including hourly employees.
MTEL requirement and Charters
We recognize that school and MTEL testing site closures may have affected charter school educators who must pass the MTEL in their first year of employment.
Charter schools should make staff decisions as they see fit. In accountability documents, charter school office staff will note that the April MTELs were cancelled and schools will not be held accountable for any teacher who is employed in 2020-21 without passing MTELs. See our guidance about charter school educator qualifications, for additional information about typical requirements.
School Meals and Nutrition
- Please check the Department's COVID-19 page devoted to School Meals during time of school closures.
On March 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved DESE's request to waive the requirement that school meal sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of school lunch program participants are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Therefore, all school districts and charter schools that are distributing meals during school closures related to COVID-19 and are focusing the distribution of these meals to children and teens in need of them are now eligible for USDA reimbursement.
Also remember, every one of the non-congregate meal sites currently open are "open" sites meaning that any enrolled student or student from a neighboring town can take a meal to go. Therefore, any charter school that is not serving meals currently to their students can direct their students to a site near them. There currently are nearly 1,200 sites on Project Bread's School Closure Meal Site Finder tool: School Closure Meal Information.
Accountability and Deadlines
Commissioner Riley has aligned the minimum length of the school year for all charter schools to be the same as public school districts (180 days) and has removed any requirement to submit an amendment to document this change. The Commissioner will issue a memorandum to this effect within the coming weeks. Charter schools will report their total number of days of instruction for 2019-2020 in their Annual Reports and will report the number of "in person" days as well as the number of "remote learning" days.
Number of School Days
Commissioner Riley has updated DESE's guidance about the requirement for 180 days of school to provide relief to districts and charter schools. This policy applies to the current (2019-2020) school year only. (Note: The Department will continue to revisit this guidance if the situation warrants it.):
- All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between the first day of the school year and March 15 must be made up by rescheduling full school days to ensure a 180-day school year.
- All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between March 16 and June 1 must be made up to ensure a 180-day school year or until the district has reached its previously scheduled 185th day, whichever comes first. If all five snow days have been used prior to this point, the district is not required to scheduled additional school days.
- Districts will not be expected to make up any days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies that occur after June 1.
The longest that any school district will be required to go is its scheduled 185th day. No schools will be required to be in session after June 30.
The Department received questions about whether charter schools should keep their planned April school vacation week this year (the week of Patriots' Day, April 20) or use that four-day school week to continue the remote learning plan they have put in place. Each charter school board of trustees establishes the annual school calendar, consistent with state standards outlined in the Student Learning Time regulations and commitments made in the school's charter. The board of trustees may adjust the school calendar to meet the needs of its community. This is a local decision. For charter schools considering using part or all of the April vacation week to provide continuity of learning for students, please note that Patriots' Day is a statewide legal holiday. Schools cannot operate on state or federal holidays, including professional development days for staff.
If a charter school continues to provide remote learning program for students from April 21 to 24, the charter school is not required to go beyond its previously scheduled 181st day. Charter schools that maintain the April vacation week as a school vacation will be expected to resume their remote learning program on April 27 and conclude the school year no earlier than the previously scheduled 185th day.
Charter schools are currently expected to submit the SOA plans with their Annual Reports, due July 31, 2020. Timelines will be adjusted if needed, nothing has changed right now.
Accountability relief around student attendance
Chronic absenteeism is a factor in our accountability system and we don't want closures or absences related to the coronavirus to skew those numbers. For accountability purposes for SY2019-20, we are only calculating chronic absenteeism through Monday, March 2, 2020 and will not use attendance data for the remainder of the school year.
Cutting down on ongoing mandates during this time
- Problem Resolution System (PRS): The Department will be as flexible as possible with deadlines and requests related to PRS complaint investigations and are seeking additional flexibility about the federal-mandated requirement to close special education complaints within 60 days.
- School Monitoring Requirements: The Department has suspended all monitoring and onsite assistance visits. If you want or need our assistance, we will be happy to provide it virtually.
- The Charter School Office has cancelled all remaining eight charter school site visits for the rest of the school year.
Faithfulness to the Charter and Policies
Faithfulness to the Charter
Charter schools are not required to seek charter amendments to educational programs, curriculum models, or whole school designs in response to the implementation of remote learning due to school closures ordered by the Commonwealth. Actions taken by schools to implement remote learning aligned with my recommendations are likely to be consistent with the material terms of the school's charter.
If you have specific concerns related to changes to your school's educational program in response to the school's obligations to provide remote learning opportunities to students, please contact , or Alison Bagg. Alyssa Hopkins
If you are unable to meet an accountability plan measure due to the state mandated closure, that is understandable. Please note in your Annual Report that the state mandated closure/or other disruption due to coronavirus interfered with the school's ability to implement specific programming or meet a specific measure in the accountability plan.
If you have questions about specific measures in your accountability plan and how to report on them in the upcoming 2019-20 Annual Report, please contact . Esther Jeong
If you have questions about how to write about a disruption to your mission or implementation of key design elements in the upcoming 2019-20 Annual Report, please contact . Patrick Buckwalter
At this time, all charter schools have conducted their primary enrollment lotteries. If you have specific questions about conducting subsequent lotteries during this time of state mandated closure, please contact . Brenton Stewart
From the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign
This webpage will continue to be updated to keep all Massachusetts charter schools informed about important topics and information during the state's COVID-19 emergency.
Questions and feedback may be sent to us via email: . firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: May 26, 2020