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Regents announces ‘emergency regulations’ for schools

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The Board of Regents today adopted emergency regulations to ease the burdens and provide important flexibility for educators, students, professionals and others to address interruptions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The series of amendments address numerous issues resulting from the interruptions districts, institutions of higher education and licensed professionals are experiencing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a tremendous burden on many New Yorkers and our schools and children are no exception,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “The regulations passed by the Board today will allow schools, students and professionals much-needed flexibility while they adapt to this rapidly evolving situation.”

The Buffalo News was reporting Rosa also canceled all Regents exams that were scheduled for June.

“At a time when we as New Yorkers are coming together in our efforts to safely endure the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that we look for ways to ease hardships this situation may be causing on those around us,” State Education Department Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe said. “These regulatory amendments make the changes necessary to allow our schools, institutions of higher education and our professions need to continue to operate effectively during this public health crisis.”

The emergency regulations will become effective Tuesday. It is anticipated that the proposed amendment will be presented for permanent adoption at the July 2020 Regents meeting, after publication of the proposed amendment in the State Register and expiration of the 60-day public comment period required under the State Administrative Procedure Act.

A summary of some of the amendments follows.

• School and district accountability — The federal government has provided New York state with a one-year waiver from provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act pertaining to state assessments and school and district accountability determinations due to the unique circumstances that have arisen as a result of the COVOID-19 crisis. Therefore, the Department amends the Commissioner’s regulations to specify that the Commissioner will not conduct a review of school and district performance using 2019-20 school year data. The accountability status of public schools and districts for the 2020-21 school year will remain the same as for the 2019-20 school year; and 2018-19 school year results shall be used in any instance where 2019-20 school year results would have been used as part of the process of making 2021-22 school year accountability determinations.

Additionally, the proposed amendment provides that the Commissioner may, upon a finding of good cause, modify timelines for the 2019-20 through 2021-22 school years [any required timelines] pertaining to notifications, plans, reports, or implementation of activities required of schools and districts because of their accountability status during those school years.

• Special Education — The Commissioner’s regulations are amended to ensure that State approved private schools, State operated schools, Special Act School Districts, State supported schools and preschools will not be penalized because they are unable to provide instruction or operate for 180 days where such schools are closed pursuant to an Executive Order of the Governor. The amendments also permit impartial hearing officers to conduct special education due process hearings by video conference during the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, the amendments allow hearing officers to extend cases up to 60 days rather than 30 days while schools are closed pursuant to the terms of the Executive Order(s) issued by the Governor.

In regard to requirements that preschool providers make-up missed services within 30 days of the missed session, the amendment allows providers to not include days that the school is closed pursuant to the terms of the Executive Order(s) issued by the Governor. Additionally, the regulations extend the time period to arrange for special education programs and services to be provided where a school is closed pursuant to an Executive Order issued by the Governor.

• Bilingual education — The Commissioner’s regulations are amended to not include any day(s) where a school is closed pursuant to an Executive Order of the Governor to count toward the following timelines:

English language learner identification process timeline;

parental notification and information timeline; and

the English as a New Language/Bilingual Education placement timeline.

The amendments will also provide an exemption to students from the unit of study requirements where a student is unable to meet such requirements due to schools being closed pursuant to an Executive Order and otherwise achieves the learning outcomes.

Additionally, the amendments provide that for the 2019-2020 school year, there will be no English language learner annual assessment due to such assessment being suspended as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

• Curriculum and instruction — The Department amends the Commissioner’s regulations to provide an exemption to students from the unit of study requirements where a student is unable to meet such requirements due to schools being closed pursuant to an Executive Order of the Governor and where such student otherwise achieves the learning outcomes of such portion of unity of study completed.

• Home instruction — The Department will amend the Commissioner’s regulations to provide that an alternative form of evaluation for students receiving home instruction, in lieu of an annual assessment, will be permitted for all grades in the 2019-20 school year due to the State of Emergency declared by the Governor.

• State aid — The amendments permit public school districts, public schools and charter schools to operate for less than 180 days without a reduction in State Aid if a school is closed pursuant to the terms of Executive Order(s) of the Governor. This amendment also permits missed instructional hours for any day that a school is closed pursuant to the terms of an Executive Order of the Governor to count toward the minimum annual instructional hour requirements.

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