National PTA provided this guidance through a newsletter sent March 18, 2020
The outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a rapidly evolving public health situation. State and local PTAs must follow the direction and guidance of their respective health and education departments.
In order to assist and support the most vulnerable children and families, PTAs should reach out to their local school districts and departments of health to determine high-need areas and collaborate with community groups—such as food pantries—to provide essential services and support.
We have compiled a number of resources for our community to use to help navigate the pandemic.
How do I talk to my child about the Coronavirus?
Children, as well as adults, are likely to experience anxiety in this uncertain time. Several resources have been created by leading mental health experts on how to have age-appropriate, fact-based and reassuring conversations with your children about the outbreak and the steps they can take to stay healthy.
- How to Talk to Your Child about the Coronavirus, Kids Health
- Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource, National Association of School Psychologists
- Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Where can I go for information on the Coronavirus and its impact on education and children?
There are several resources available for parents about the Coronavirus. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has resources to assist education leaders in protecting student privacy and ensuring students with disabilities continue to receive services required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) during school closures due to the outbreak.
The ED also released important information for K-12 educators on flexibilities the Department could grant when it comes to the accountability standards required by law under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We particularly recommend reviewing COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has additional guidance and further resources, including:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage
- Guidance for School Settings
- Checklist for Teachers and Parents
- Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs
Colorín Colorado is a good resource for English Language Learners and their families, as well as educators. We particularly want to call attention to their Multilingual Coronavirus Resources for Schools
What if I do not have internet access in my home? What is being done to support equitable access to the internet for student learning?
Several internet providers have announced that they will make their services available for free for households with K-12 and/or college students who don’t already have internet through the company. Further installation fees may also be waived for new student households. Please contact your local internet provider for additional information.
National PTA has joined several other education groups in calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to temporarily allow schools to utilize E-Rate program funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home. This action would help ensure that all students can remotely continue their education during the current public health emergency.
The coronavirus pandemic is shining a bright light on the so-called “homework gap” experienced by 12 million students in this country. The gap refers to those students who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework—at a time when over 70% of educators assign schoolwork that requires the internet.
As a parent, how can I support learning at home?
Recognizing that not all families or children will have the resources to access and leverage digital learning opportunities, PTAs should work with their local school and district to understand what plans are in place or are being developed to equitably support student learning during school closures. PTAs can (and should!) work with schools to help develop student learning plans during school closures and help communicate these plans to families.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), has developed 10 Strategies for Online Learning During Coronavirus Outbreak. The Today Show has curated some free educational activities that students and families can engage in here.
What is being done to ensure vulnerable youth have access to school meals?
Nearly 22 million students depend on subsidized breakfasts and lunches served at schools. All Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) programs—including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs—have flexibilities and contingencies built-in to allow them to respond to on-the-ground realities in the event of a disaster or emergency situation. You can view the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Response to COVID-19 here.
PTAs should connect with their local schools and district to learn about the plans for meal distribution and how best to support and promote those efforts. Members of Congress have introduced bipartisan legislation, COVID–19 Child Nutrition Response Act to protect students’ access to school meal benefits during school closures related to COVID-19.
What legislative action is Congress taking regarding the Coronavirus?
Legislation is currently pending in Congress. Specifically, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.
Additionally, members of Congress have introduced the Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6275) which will provide needed resources to early childhood programs, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education. The legislation will provide $3 billion dollars in grants to provide support services to students, including mental health and technology and funding to clean school facilities.
You can write to your elected officials about these and other bills using our Take Action Network.
What if I have concerns about end-of-year state testing?
The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance on assessments and accountability. The Department of Education generally does not grant statewide waivers of assessment requirements under section 1111(b)(2) of the ESEA.
However, due to the unique circumstances that may arise as a result of COVID-19, such as a school closing during the entire testing window, it may not be feasible for a State to administer some or all of its assessments, in which case the Department would consider a targeted one-year waiver of the assessment requirements for those schools impacted by the extraordinary circumstances.
States with schools that must close due to the COVID-19 may also want to consider whether it is possible to adjust or extend the testing window to accommodate as many students as possible, including students in schools that were closed for some period. Please contact your state PTA and/or our SEA with questions about testing in your state.
Check out the National PTA website for any updates to this information.