OEA Coronavirus FAQ

As part of OEA’s commitment to monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on our members, we want to address the impact that the mandatory COVID-19 school closures may have on you, and provide you with ways to advocate for yourself during this public health crisis.

OEA is continuing to advocate with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the Ohio legislature, and leaders from other statewide education associations, for appropriate flexibility in the delivery of special education services. Additionally, OEA is working with the NEA to advocate for temporary flexibility at the federal level to ensure that all students can access the best education possible during these unprecedented circumstances.

OEA strongly recommends that members contact their local association presidents and LRC’s when they have questions and/or concerns regarding any educational, workplace, or health and safety issue during the mandated COVID-19 school closure.

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Will the state provide annual report cards for the 2019-2020 school year?

For the 2019-20 school year, HB 197 prohibits the Ohio Department of Education from publishing and issuing ratings for overall grades, components, and individual measures on the state report cards, report cards for dropout recovery schools, report cards for joint vocational school districts and other career-technical planning districts, and submitting preliminary data for report cards for school districts and buildings. Furthermore, HB 197 permits the State Superintendent to waive the requirement to complete any report based on data from assessments that were to be administered in the 2019-2020 school year.

What are the requirements for the Board of Education to hold open meetings electronically?

Local governments, including school boards, who choose to hold electronic meetings in lieu of in-person meetings, due to public gathering restrictions, must meet the following requirements:

  • Members attending the meeting through the body’s chosen electronic method count as present and count toward a quorum. They are permitted to vote on any issues that come before the body.
  • Any resolution, rule or other formal action taken or adopted by the public body during such a session will have the same effect as one taken during an in-person meeting.
  • The public body is required to give notice of the meeting to the media and other parties requiring notice at least 24 hours before it takes place. In an emergency situation, the public body must give notice as soon as practical.
  • Members of the public must be provided access to the public body’s discussions and deliberations conducted via the electronic method to the same extent that they would get from attending in person. That includes the ability for the viewer/listener to hear every member participating in person or electronically. Examples of electronic methods that afford public access (and that are cited in the law) include live-streaming via the internet; local radio, television, cable or public access channels; and calling into a teleconference.
  • For a public hearing, the electronic method the public body uses for the meeting must be widely available to the public and must permit the public to converse with witnesses and receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.

These requirements remain in place until the Governor removes the “State of Emergency” or December 20, 2020, whichever comes first.

What role do local health departments play in schools reopening?

School districts should be working with their local health department(s) on their school reopening plans. Ohio has 113 local health departments, which, like local school districts, work independently but in concert with state and federal agencies. You can find your district’s local health department(s) by using the comprehensive search tool at: odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/find-local-health-districts

Local health departments must review school districts’ plans before they can be implemented; however, local health departments have varying degrees of capacity and resources to oversee school districts’ plan. For this reason, OEA encourages locals to take an active role in advocating for member, student, and community safety in their district’s return-to-school plan.

What is OEA’s stance on returning to in-person instruction the fall?

OEA supports the return to in-person instruction only when it is safe to do so for students, educators, education support professionals, families, and communities. Ohio currently uses a COVID-19 alert system with four levels of severity: Level 1 (yellow), Level 2 (orange), Level 3 (red), and Level 4 (purple). OEA’s position is that school and campus buildings located in Level 3 (red) and Level 4 (purple) counties should remain closed to in-person instruction.

For in-person instruction in Level 1 (yellow) and Level 2 (orange) counties, OEA has called on Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to require districts to follow all U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) school guidelines, which include:

  • Mandatory face masks or face coverings for students, staff, and visitors,
  • Strict adherence to six-foot physical distancing,
  • Stringent handwashing and sanitizing protocols,
  • Daily health checks for students and staff,
  • Strict quarantine and isolation protocols for those presumed positive for COVID-19 and anyone who has been exposed to the virus.

For more on OEA’s position on in-person instruction, click here.

How is OEA supporting return-to-school efforts?

OEA’s position is that school buildings in counties rated Level 3 (red) or Level 4 (purple) should remain closed to in-person instruction and that all districts returning to in-person instruction should strictly adhere to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) school guidelines.

To support members that are returning to in-person instruction, OEA has distributed a comprehensive guide, “Advocating for Members, Students, and Communities,” to local leaders. This guide complements the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE’s) “Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts” by providing a framework for analyzing school reopening plans that locals can use for member advocacy. The National Education Association (NEA) has also provided detailed initial guidance on reopening schools in a document entitled “All Hands on Deck.” You can find more NEA resources on returning to school at: www.educatingthroughcrisis.org

As always, members are encouraged to work with their local union representatives as questions and concerns about returning to in-person instruction arise.

What are the COVID-19 reporting requirements for Ohio’s schools?

Teachers, school staff, and parents/guardians of students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are encouraged to notify their school within 24 hours of receiving a positive diagnosis. Within 24 hours of becoming aware of a positive COVID-19 test from a student, teacher, or staff member, the school must notify the local health department. Local health departments are notified using a template, which requires information about the name of the school, the name and contact information of the person submitting the form, the number of positive cases, and whether the person who tested positive was working or studying onsite or remotely. Schools do not report personal information about people who test positive for COVID-19. Local health departments then submit a weekly report to the Ohio Department of Health. COVID-19 data by school or school district can be found at the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard.

How are close contact and COVID-19 exposure defined?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), someone who has had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or longer) with a person with COVID-19 symptoms, or with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, has been exposed to COVID-19. This is the case regardless of whether one or both people were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the period of close contact. The CDC recommends that people exposed to COVID-19 stay home for 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms.

In Ohio, local health departments have made an exception to this guidance for certain school personnel that have frequent, unavoidable close contact with children (e.g., school nurses, healthcare personnel, special education professionals). If these essential personnel wear medical-grade surgical masks while in close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or longer) with a student wearing a cloth mask who has tested positive for COVID-19 and/or is exhibiting symptoms, that interaction is not considered to be an exposure. In other words, specific school staff wearing medical-grade surgical masks are not considered exposed if they have direct contact with a COVID-19 positive student who is wearing a cloth mask. Any questions about this exception can be directed to your local health department; you can find local health department contact information here. OEA encourages local unions to communicate directly with their local health departments.

Ohio Department of Health guidance states that for the majority of school staff, cloth masks provide the appropriate level of personal protection against COVID-19. Medical-grade surgical masks are only necessary for personnel with frequent, unavoidable close contact with children.

What should I do if I think my district is not properly reporting COVID-19 data?

School districts are required to report COVID-19 cases to their local health department, which in turn reports data to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Health then publishes school district COVID-19 data on this dashboard. This reporting process means that there will be lags between when school districts receive information about COVID-19 cases and when the Ohio Department of Health publishes that data on its dashboard, so a discrepancy between numbers “on the ground” in a district and on the dashboard does not necessarily mean that your district is not properly reporting its data. However, if you believe that your district is improperly reporting its COVID-19 data, you can file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Health by calling this number: (800) 342-0553.

 

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Can the Board of Education unilaterally change the terms of my collective bargaining agreement (e.g. evaluation requirements)?

No. All terms and conditions of employment contained within a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) remain in full force until a modification has been negotiated and ratified by the Board of Education and the Exclusive Representative (union). If you believe your contractual rights have been violated, contact your local president or OEA Labor Relations Consultant (LRC) to discuss the specific circumstances of your situation.

What is a school district’s requirement to report COVID-19 cases?

Effective September 8, 2020, and continuing until rescinded, the Ohio Director of Health has ordered each k-12 school district to:

  • Establish a COVID-19 coordinator and report their name to the local health department
  • Within 24 hours of becoming aware of a student, staff member, or coach either testing positive or being diagnosed with COVID-19, the District must report the existence of the case, in writing, to:
    • All parents or guardians who share a classroom space or participated in a school activity during the infectious period of the individual(s); and,
    • All parents or guardians of students at the school building. This requirement can be met with an email and/or by posting on an established website; and,
    • The local health department

School Districts should exercise all care to protect the identity of the individual(s) who has tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19. While there is no requirement to notify staff contained in the health order, OEA expects that all staff will also be notified as promptly as possible. Districts may aggregate their data in the report to parents/guardians if more than one occurrence occurs at a building.

Each local health department is required to report the number of newly reported cases each Tuesday to the Ohio Department of Health, who will aggregate and publish the data, by student and staff, each Thursday.

What happens when a member is diagnosed with or comes in contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19?

If an employee is unable to work or tele-work they are eligible for a number of different leaves, including Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave, expanded FMLA rights, and contractual sick leave benefits.

How does the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) apply to me?

Until December 31, 2020, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) requires that school districts to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave (or the equivalent of 10 days of pay for part-time) to employees who need to take leave from work for certain specified reasons related to COVID-19. This benefit is above any unused sick leave that an employee may have accrued under a collective bargaining agreement or Ohio law. The COVID-19 reasons for EPSLA use include the following:

  • Full pay (up to $511 per day) if the employee is subject to a government quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or,
  • Full pay (up to $511 per day) if the employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical attention; or,
  • Two-thirds the employee’s rate of pay (up to $200 per day) if the employee is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; or,
  • Two-thirds the employee’s rate of pay (up to $200 per day) if the employee is caring for someone who is subject to a government quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.

How does the expanded Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provisions of the CARES Act apply to me?

Until December 31, 2020 the CARES Act also allows an employee to use FMLA in the event an employee is caring for his or her son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. The total leave allowed under FMLA is 12 weeks, including any leave that may have already been taken. The first two weeks are unpaid, though the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or other available paid leave can be used during this time. The remaining ten weeks will be paid at two-thirds the employee’s rate of pay (up to $200 per day).

The U.S. Department of Labor has clarified that if you are quarantined, seeking medical attention, or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the “traditional” FMLA provisions apply to those situations. Therefore, you are NOT entitled to any Federally required compensation after use of the EPSLA in order to receive compensation you will need to use your personal sick leave, personal leave, or other contractually provided paid leave benefit

Can I take FMLA leave to care for my child during the COVID-19 epidemic?

Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provides that until December 31, 2020, employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days are eligible for leave under FMLA because of a qualifying need related to a public health emergency. Specifically, if an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age because the school or place of care has been closed, then they would be eligible for this leave.

How do my contractual leave benefits apply in COVID-19?

Any reason that would qualify as an FMLA or EPSLA event should apply to the use of your contractual sick leave. Additionally, there is no legal prohibition to using a portion of a day(s) in order to receive your full compensation for each work day missed due to COVID-19. There may be contractual limitations to some leave use and therefore it is recommended to contact your local president and/or Labor Relations Consultant to ensure your rights under the contract are fully protected.

Did the Spring 2020 school closure impact my STRS/SERS/PERS service credit?

No. All employees who were working prior to the school closure should be “in paid status”. The minimum requirement for a year of service credit under STRS and SERS is 120 days of paid status. Assuming someone began working at the beginning of the school year, this requirement has likely been achieved. OPERS members accrue service credit based upon months worked. If there is no change in employment status and pay, there should be no impact on accrued OPERS credit.

Can I change my health flexible spending account (HFSA) election for this year?

Yes. The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on May 12, 2020, that allows employees to make a new election (enroll for the first time), decrease or increase an existing election (change contribution amounts), or revoke (cancel the election). For those individuals decreasing or eliminating their election, any change cannot reduce the annual election below what has already been spent out of the account.

Plans that allow a carryover into the next plan year for use, the amount allowed for carryover into the plan year beginning in 2021 has been increased to $550 and will be adjusted annually thereafter, indexed to inflation. This is a permanent change to IRS regulations.

Plans that allow a grace period into the next plan year, and the plan year or the grace period ended in calendar year 2020, have the ability to use those funds until December 31, 2020. This may increase the time period for most plans from the previous requirement to use the funds within 2 ½ months following the end of the plan year. This is a temporary change to IRS regulations.

The employer must make a change to their Section 125 plan document to implement the allowable changes. If you have questions or concerns regarding how this change affects you, contact your local president or LRC.

Can I change my dependent care assistance program (DCAP) election for this year?

Yes. The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on May 12, 2020, that allows employees to make a new election (enroll in a DCAP for the first time), decrease or increase an existing election (change contribution amounts), or revoke (cancel the election). There was no change to the $5000 limit for contributions to the DCAP. The employer must make a change to their Section 125 plan document to implement this change. If you have questions or concerns regarding how this change affects you, contact your local president or LRC.

Are school employees eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 in the workplace?

As of mid-July, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation was processing and approving, at least some, individual claims of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. OEA is unsure how long these will continue to be approved, or how detailed the claims process may become, as thousands of school employees return to work. The ability to show that someone contracted COVID-19 in the workplace can be especially difficult. Individuals who believe they contracted COVID-19 in the workplace should follow these steps:

  1. Immediately notify their supervisor, local union representative, and Labor Relations Consultant
  2. File a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation at www.bwc.ohio.gov and/or complete any paperwork required by your employer
  3. List the date(s) of any previous negative COVID-19 test
  4. Create a list of people that you have been in contact with outside of the workplace, over the previous 14 days
  5. Compile a list of the protocols you employ in your daily life to limit exposure to COVID-19
  6. Keep your union representative and/or Labor Relations Consultant updated regarding any developments with your claim

Do I have to sign a “waiver” or “release of liability” in order to return to work?

No. Your terms and conditions of employment are contained within your local’s collective bargaining agreement. Any change, including additional requirements like a waiver of liability, must be negotiated with the union prior to implementation. If you are requested or required, to sign a waiver contact your union representative and Labor Relations Consultant and DO NOT sign it until you receive further guidance from your union.

Does the District have to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to staff and students?

PPE, including face masks and face shields, are required by the Ohio Department of Health for all employees in public schools except in very specific situations. The responsibility for meeting this requirement rests with the School District and as such, should provide staff with the appropriate PPE. Who provides the PPE is negotiable as a term and condition of employment under Chapter 4117 of Ohio Revised Code.

The requirement for PPE use by students and visitors continues to be a local decision. The use of PPE (e.g. face mask, face shield) in reducing transmission of COVID-19 , especially in situations where social distancing cannot be accomplished, has been proven in multiple, peer-reviewed studies. A School District has the ability to require PPE use by students and visitors. Until COVID-19 is contained, School Districts should require and provide PPE to anyone who enters a school building with staff or students present.

How should Fall and year-long supplemental contracts be handled?

The issuance of a supplemental contract is at the discretion of the Board of Education unless a specific procedure or requirement is established by the collective bargaining agreement. Except for those unique situations, it is recommended that the union either negotiate how supplementals will be paid in the event of a shortened season or have the Board delay the issuance of supplemental contracts until the season can be reasonably determined. In either situation, a Memorandum of Understanding must be negotiated and ratified by both the Union and Board before any reduction of the contractual amount of pay or other changes to the terms of the supplemental can be implemented. Members should NOT assume the responsibilities of a supplemental position until the Board offers a supplemental contract. Any work done prior to the issuance of the supplemental could be deemed “volunteer work” by the Board.

Should teachers and students assist in cleaning and sanitizing school buildings?

Generally, disinfecting should be the responsibility of school custodial staff. They are trained to use disinfectants in a safe and effective manner and to clean up potentially infectious materials and body fluid spills – blood, vomit, feces, and urine.

If teachers use disinfectants, the local union should demand that the district provide training, supply the appropriate cleaner and sanitizer or disinfectant and provide the proper amount of time required to apply the disinfectant and to allow the disinfectant to dry.

Students are more vulnerable to chemical exposures. Many common cleaning products have ingredients that can harm health, especially the lungs. Therefore, students should not be assigned sanitizing tasks.

As always, please refer to your collective bargaining agreement and coordinate with your local union leadership.

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My background check is due to be renewed, what should I do?

The Ohio BCI is continuing to conduct background checks on their normal schedule. You should contact your supervisor/principal to determine how the school district is recommending you proceed with fingerprint collection. Alternatively, you can contact BCI at 877-224-0043 for instructions on how to complete your fingerprint collection from home.

Are employees allowed to donate sick leave to ESP staff?

Sick leave donation policies are established by the collective bargaining agreement. Contract language on this issue varies from district to district, and members should review their collective bargaining agreement in consultation with their local leaders and labor relations consultant to determine if it is possible for certified staff to donate sick days to ESP staff.

Locals that wish to make changes to their sick leave donation policies to meet the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic should work to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to address these new circumstances.

What are the Covid-19 healthy and safety guidelines for music education/performing arts programs?

The Ohio Department of Health’s Responsible RestartOhio plan includes several mandates and recommended best practices for K-12 school and collegiate band, choir, dance teams, and other similar performance activities. Mandates include:

  • No congregating before or after practices, rehearsals, or performances
  • No shared equipment or materials
  • Limited rehearsal time
  • Directors, staff, volunteers, and audience members must wear face masks
  • Performers must wear face masks when not performing
  • For indoor performances, the audience limit is the lesser of 15% of fixed seating capacity or 300 individuals, and venue seating must allow for six feet of social distancing
  • Prior to competitions involving multiple performing groups, organizers must alert the local health department

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has also released detailed healthy and safety guidelines as well as guidelines for properly sanitizing instruments. These guidelines include recommendations about social distancing, mask use, bell cover use for wind instruments, limited rehearsal schedules, and air filtration systems with HEPA filters for indoor practices and performances.

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I am an hourly employee and I have had a reduction in my hours, do I qualify for unemployment?

Potentially. Your eligibility and the amount you receive from the State (if any) is dependent on a number of factors, including your normal pay over a period of time, the number of dependents you can claim, and how much your income and work hours have been reduced. Ohio unemployment assistance is available, retroactively, to the first date you had reduced income. You can apply for unemployment by going to unemployment.ohio.gov or by calling 877-644-6562.

Can staff be required to report to work when schools are closed?

Potentially. There is no statutory guidance on whether staff can be required to report during an epidemic or other public calamity. If a collective bargaining agreement has specific requirements the language should be followed until modified through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Absent contract language, Management does have some flexibility under Ohio Rev. Code 4117.08 to promulgate certain policies or rules.

My background check is due to be renewed, what should I do?

The Ohio BCI is continuing to conduct background checks on their normal schedule. You should contact your supervisor/principal to determine how the school district is recommending you proceed with fingerprint collection. Alternatively, you can contact BCI at 877-224-0043 for instructions on how to complete your fingerprint collection from home.

What do I need to know about the safety of food service employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Food service workers are playing an essential role in helping our communities endure the COVID-19 pandemic. This PowerPoint was put together by an OEA staff person and includes helpful resources on how food service workers can keep themselves and their communities safe during this challenging time: Click here to view or download the file

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Is a license available to 2020 Spring and Summer graduates of Education Preparation and Programs (EPPs)?

One-Year Temporary Licenses are still available through the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for eligible EPP graduates. The one-year Temporary License is non-renewable and limited to the 2020-2021 school year. During this time candidates will be required to successfully pass licensure examinations which include Ohio Assessments for Educators (OAE) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

My teaching license is coming up for renewal, what should I do?

Recently enacted legislation provides flexibility on licensure and renewal deadlines. All licenses currently set to expire on July 1, 2020, will have their expiration dates extended to Sept. 1, 2020. This extension will allow educators additional time to complete renewal requirements. It is important educators complete and submit applications by Sept. 1, 2020.

Have there been any changes to the Resident Educator Program requirements and the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA) for the 2020-21 school year?

No. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has announced that the Resident Educator Program requirements and the RESA are unchanged for the 2020-21 school year. OEA continues to advocate for the passage of HB 322, which would change the Resident Educator Program. More information about the requirements for the Ohio Resident Educator Program can be found here: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Teaching/Resident-Educator-Program

If I must teach virtually this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, will I receive annual credit for teaching while holding a Resident Educator License?

Yes. To receive credit for each year of teaching in the program, a Resident Educator must provide instruction in the area of their Resident Educator license for a minimum of 120 days. As long as Resident Educators continue to provide learning opportunities that are approved by their school district, both in-person and virtual teaching days may be considered towards the 120 days of teaching requirement.

What are the local Resident Educator Program Requirements during the COVID-19 crisis?

Each local school district determines their Resident Educator Program requirements. During the continued uncertainty in schools resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, some local program activities, requirements, and expectations may need to be revised. Those local program activities, requirements, and expectations are subject to bargaining, and should be revised through the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). If you have questions regarding your local mentoring and leadership exploration year requirements, please contact your Labor Relations Consultant (LRC) and your local association president.

Are there changes to the mentoring requirements of the Resident Educator Program during the COVID-19 crisis?

The requirement for mentoring has not changed. However, local mentoring programming may need to be revised and adjusted, subject to bargaining, during the COVID-19 crisis. Please note the following regarding mentoring:

  • Decisions about how mentoring will be delivered in a COVID-19 environment are made at the local level and are subject to bargaining.
  • Virtual meetings and training sessions for mentors and Resident Educators may occur and can be bargained as an adjusted local mentoring practice.

Have any changes been made to the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA) during the COVID-19 crisis?

There are no changes to the RESA submission requirements for Resident Educators eligible to submit their RESA at this time. This includes the video requirement. OEA continues to advocate for flexibility regarding RESA submission and component requirements. For teachers who find themselves unexpectedly teaching virtually, ODE suggests following the guidance offered for teachers who always teach virtually. That guidance can be found at www.ohioresa.com in the FAQ’s under the question: “How do I videotape my online class and are there specific technology requirements for RESA candidates who teach online classes?”

Please note that TeachForward is expecting to release the 2020-21 version of the RESA Guidebook on August 21, 2020, and the provided guidance may change.

What provisions/exemptions are being considered if there are Resident Educator mentoring and/or leadership activities that cannot be completed due to the mandated COVID-19 school closures?

Completion Criteria for the Resident Educator (RE) Program are determined at the local level by the school district. ODE has acknowledged that during the mandated COVID-19 school closures revisions to local expectations may need to occur. Therefore, each school district will need to determine what adjustments, if any, will need to be made to their local requirements, and use their “best judgement” when making any revisions to local requirements. Please note that the Completion Criteria window in CORE will close on May 31, 2020.

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Third Grade Reading Guarantee – 2020-2021 School Year

Ohio Legislators addressed Third Grade Reading Requirements (TGRG) for the 2020-2021 school year within HB 164. In summary, teachers assigned to third grade students, including students who may have been retained in third or placed in fourth grade, do not need to possess the additional Reading credentials. Districts with a low Literacy Component grades will not be subject to mandatory improvement plans or other triggers. Third grade students who fail to score proficient in Reading shall not be retained as long as the principal and reading teacher agree other measures have determined the student is academically prepared for fourth grade. Lastly, HB 164 prohibits the State Board of Education from reviewing and upwardly adjusting the proficient Reading score for 2020-2021 SY.

The deadline for administration of grade 1-3 diagnostic reading assessments is still September 30th. Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plans (RIMPs) developed with parent involvement must be completed within 60 days (two months) after receiving the results. As Ohio Legislators are the only statutory authority able to extend, and/or suspend the administration of the Third Grade Guarantee Assessment requirement, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) offers these approaches to address Covid19 related circumstances:

Districts using Hybrid Models should arrange to assess students when they are physically present

“Districts are arranging for students to come to school to be assessed”1

In cases where “bringing in students…for assessments creates logistical challenges… districts should make a good-faith effort… to prioritize the assessment and development of RIMPs for those students most in need.”1

1Further guidance from ODE can be found at http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Reset-and-Restart/Reading-Diagnostic-and-Remediation-Activity

What is the status on giving the kindergarten readiness test this school year?

As it stands, there is no suspension to the requirement to administer the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment in the Fall of 2020. It is also worth noting the KRA has been updated into a new version for the 2020-2021 SY. Training should occur to ensure teachers are aware of the changes in the administration of the KRA.

How has the pandemic impacted teacher evaluations?

Flexibilities for OTES 1.0 during the 2020-2021 SY include the suspension of the requirement to use Student Growth Measures and the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) business rule requiring the presence of SGMs to be eligible for the less frequent evaluation cycles having evidenced Accomplished or Skilled ratings. (For details regarding OTES 2.0 please see the following FAQ)

How has the pandemic impacted the implementation of OTES 2.0?

Legislation has provided several flexibilities surrounding the implementation of OTES 2.0. The most significant of these provisions is the ability to postpone 2.0 implementation for a year. This option is available to all districts up until the official start of the 2020-2021 SY. Choosing to postpone the implementation of the new evaluation system during a year which will may see drastic changes in instruction formats, consistency of attendance, and a need to place student and staff safety first, may also provide more time to provide professional development for a quality 2.0 implementation in 2021-2022. For those districts who choose to implement OTES 2.0 on schedule (2020-2021 SY), the law suspends and prohibits the use of High Quality Student Data (HQSD) within evaluations. Both flexibilities expire at the end of 2020-0221 SY.

Can a Superintendent hire and/or employ a teacher outside of their licensure area in 2020-2021 SY?

Limited to the 2020-2021 SY, a superintendent may hire and/or employ a teacher two (2) grades levels out of their current licensure area and topic or subject area. This is not applicable to Special Education positions.

Can my employer evaluate me digitally during 2020-2021?

Ohio’s collective bargaining law ORC 4117 includes evaluation as a condition of employment as well as any continuation, modification …of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). ORC 3319.111, 3319.112 and OTES Frameworks approved by the State Board of Education require and define the tools and components of teacher evaluation. Any desired changes beyond law, rest firmly within local bargaining rights.

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How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Ohio colleges’ and universities’ finances?

On May 5, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine announced $775 million in cuts to state spending for Fiscal Year 2020 (ended June 30, 2020). $110 million of these cuts were made to the State Share of Instruction (SSI), the main source of state funding for public colleges and universities. As a result of these cuts, each public college and university in Ohio experienced a 3.8% reduction in state support.

In its current SSI projections, the Ohio Department of Higher Education projects further reductions for 19 of Ohio’s 37 colleges and universities for the first half of Fiscal Year 2021 in comparison to Fiscal Year 2020. So far, SSI has been cut 4.38% from its original budget allocation for this fiscal year (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021). The Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), a needs-based program for students attending public colleges and universities in the state, has not experienced cuts.

What federal funds have been made available for Ohio’s colleges and universities?

The March 27, 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is an economic stimulus bill that provided federal funding to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments. Congress earmarked $30.75 billion of the CARES Act for education stabilization, with states receiving $14.25 billion for higher education through the Higher Education Emergency (HEER) Fund. Ohio received a total of $388 million in HEER funds. Some HEER funds were directed toward students in the form of emergency grants, and the remaining funds were directed towards colleges and universities themselves.

The CARES Act also established a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). Through the CRF, the Treasury made payments to states and eligible units of local government to cover expenses that were incurred as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis; that were not accounted for in the budget approved as of March 27, 2020; and that were incurred between March 1 and December 30, 2020. On July 13, Ohio’s Controlling Board approved $200 million of the state’s CRF funds for higher education institutions, and on October 26, 2020, Ohio’s Controlling Board approved an additional $100 million for higher education. Some CRF funds may be used on certain personnel costs. For more details on application procedures and how these funds can be used, click here.

How are OEA and NEA supporting college and universities workers as they prepare for in-person or remote instruction?

OEA’s position is that campuses in counties rated Level 3 (red) or Level 4 (purple) should remain closed to in-person instruction and that all campuses returning to in-person instruction should strictly adhere to U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.

To support members returning to in-person instruction, OEA has distributed a comprehensive guide, “Advocating for Members, Students, and Communities,” to local leaders. NEA has curated a set of coronavirus resources for higher education faculty and staff, including tips for teaching online and information about union advocacy during the pandemic. You can find more NEA resources on educating during the COVID-19 health crisis at: www.educatingthroughcrisis.org

As always, members are encouraged to work with their local union representatives as questions and concerns about the 2020 – 2021 Academic Year arise.

What guidance is available for colleges and universities planning to re-open for in-person instruction?

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidance for colleges and universities that are planning to re-open for in-person instruction. Many colleges and universities face particular reopening challenges, such as maintaining safe residence halls and promoting behaviors that reduce the spread of coronavirus. The CDC’s guidance is meant to supplement, not replace, state and local laws and regulations.

Governor Mike DeWine also issued reopening guidelines for colleges and universities as part of Ohio’s Responsible Restart plan. The document outlines the minimum operating standards and recommended best practices for Ohio’s colleges and universities.

 

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How is the federal government providing financial support to K-12 public education in Ohio in response to COVID-19?

On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This legislation included $13.2 billion in funding for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Of that funding, $489.2 million was allocated to Ohio.

The funding received by Ohio can be broken into three categories: distributions to local educational agencies (LEAs), money reserved by the state to address emergency needs through grants or contracts, and administrative costs. $440.3 million will be distributed directly to LEAs. LEAs include both traditional K-12 public schools, as well as charter schools, but they do not include private schools. Individual district allocations for ESSER funds can be found here: Ohio Local Education Agency (LEA) preliminary ESSER Fund Allocations (pdf file)

The CARES Act also included a separate fund called the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). Funds allocated through the CRF were paid to state and local governments. In July 2020, Ohio allocated $100 million from its CRF funds to K-12 schools, including traditional public schools, charter schools, county boards of developmental disability, JVSDs, STEM schools, and private schools. CRF funds must be used for costs incurred due to the pandemic, costs unaccounted for in the most recent budget, and costs incurred between March 1 – December 30, 2020. These funds are in addition to monies previously received through the ESSER Fund.

How has the COVID-19 impacted state financial support of K-12 public education?

On May 5th, Governor Mike DeWine announced a $775 million budget reduction for FY 2020. These reductions were made due to shortfalls in state revenue caused by COVID-19. Included in the $775 million budget reductions was a $300 million reduction in K-12 education foundation payments. This reduction impacted traditional K-12 districts throughout the state, but it did not impact Joint Vocational School Districts (JVSDs).

Reductions for individual districts can be found in an Excel spreadsheet found here: Calculation of the funding reduction amounts for traditional school districts in FY 2020

For FY 2021, foundation payments are continuing based on state aid for FY 2020, which means that the cuts implemented on May 5th continue to be in effect. Moving forward, the legislature may make further reductions to state aid, but no decisions have been made at this time.

Has Ohio provided relief to districts affected by reductions in state aid payments?

Yes. On June 19th, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 164, which includes a funding provision meant to partially offset the reductions in foundation payments announced on May 5th. This legislation allocates additional funding to districts that experienced a loss of foundation payments greater than 6% in FY 2020 after taking into account payments made under the CARES Act. This legislation affects 69 districts.

A listing of the districts affected by this provision of H.B. 164 can be found in an Excel spreadsheet found here: HB-164 Payment with FY20

 

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How Should Educators Work to Communicate with Students, Parents, and Guardians?

Recognizing the value and importance of having ongoing communication with parents/guardians regarding their student’s education and safety, communication may occur through a variety of means (phone calls, mail, digital, etc.). It is important to ensure all communication is for educational purposes, is placed in an educator communication log, and conforms with district policies regarding confidentiality. Educators should never use their own digital devices, or personal web/application accounts to communicate with students. Parents/guardians should always be the main point of contact. Educators should not be communicating directly with students, especially for non-educational purposes.

What will happen with state and other testing?

HB 197 exempts all schools from administering state tests for the 2019-2020 school year, including state achievement tests, alternative assessments, OELPA and WebXams.

Prohibits the Department of Education from subtracting from a district or school’s state aid account for students who were unable to complete assessments.

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Have all pre-school classrooms, including general education and special education classrooms, returned to pre-pandemic classroom ratios for the 2020-2021 school year?

Yes. Preschool classrooms are permitted to return to pre-pandemic classroom ratios, as specified in the Ohio Department of Education preschool and school-age childcare rules. On August 10, 2020, Governor DeWine signed Executive Order 2020-34D which made these rules effective immediately.

Are social distancing measures required in general education and special education preschool classrooms?

The Ohio Department of Education feels that enforcing social distancing for preschool children can be a challenge. They suggest best practices that include keeping children and adults in cohort groups, keeping cohort groups separated, staggered use of common spaces by cohort groups, and controlling traffic flow to keep cohort groups separated. Please see more at: Child Care Rule vs Best Practice (Adobe pdf)

What are the cleaning and sanitizing requirements for preschools?

In addition to the pre-pandemic sanitizing requirements pursuant to rule 5101:2-12-13 of the Administrative Code, all cleaning and sanitizing protocols shall be done in accordance with the Reset and Restart Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts as found on the ODE website: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Reset-and-Restart

ODE recommends the following sanitizing practices as best practices: communal spaces should be sanitized between each group of children; sinks should be sanitized between cohort groups; toys should be sanitized after each use and toys that cannot be sanitized should be removed. Please see more at: Child Care Rule vs Best Practice (Adobe pdf)

What are the handwashing requirements for preschool classrooms?

In addition to pre-pandemic handwashing rules pursuant to rule 5101:2-12-13 of the Administrative Code, all handwashing protocols shall be done in accordance with the Reset and Restart Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts as found on the Department’s website: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Reset-and-Restart  Specifically:

  • All administrators, preschool and/or childcare staff members shall wash their hands upon entering the classroom and prior to leaving for the day.
  • All children shall wash their hands prior to leaving for the day.

What are the requirements for COVID-19 symptom assessments?

All preschool and childcare staff and students must be assessed for COVID-19 symptoms prior to or as soon as they arrive each day. If a person has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher:

  • The person shall immediately be sent home. The individual shall not return to the preschool or childcare classroom until they have been fever-free without the use of medication for at least twenty-four hours.
  • If the person had known contact with someone confirmed or probable to have COVID-19, the individual shall not return to the classroom until isolation or quarantine procedures for COVID-19 are completed in coordination with the local health department

The procedures above also apply to individuals who become ill during the school day or the childcare period.

Are face masks required for preschool and childcare staff?

Yes. Face masks are required for all preschool and childcare staff, and those masks must cover the person’s nose and mouth. Medical exceptions do apply.

Are face masks required for preschool and childcare students?

No. Face masks are not required for preschool children. Face mask requirements for preschool-age children are a local decision, and districts must have a policy in place to enact the requirement.

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What are school district requirements for new preschool special education referrals and IDEA Part C transitions during the mandated school closure?

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recognizes that schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they typically are provided. School district personnel and parents are being asked to work collaboratively during the mandated school closure to provide services for students with disabilities. Districts are encouraged to complete as much of the referral and/or transition process as possible in accordance with ODE guidance for considering the safety of staff and students, completing meetings virtually, and as outlined in their guidance document  Considerations for Students with Disabilities During Ohio’s School-Building Closure (Adobe pdf).

Do we need to complete the child outcomes summary process for all eligible children and enter scores for the spring 2020 data reporting assessment window?

Please see the changes below.

  • For children entering Preschool Special Education during the mandated school closure, school districts should make good faith efforts to complete the eligibility determination process following the ODE guidance linked above. If the child is coming from Part C and the data is accessible, you may use the Exit Child Outcomes Summary Form information. If you are planning for the evaluation to determine eligibility, evaluation data can be used to complete this Child Outcomes Summary. If the evaluation cannot be completed due to the mandated school closure, the Child Outcomes Summary process can be completed at the conclusion of the mandated school closure period.
  • If a child’s annual Child Outcomes Summary  process is due now, the annual Child Outcomes Summary process will not be required during the mandated school closure. There is no expectation to complete or report an annual Child Outcomes Summary process for any child whose annual Child Outcomes Summary is due during the school-building closure.
  • If a child is due to exit Preschool Special Education now, the Child Outcomes Summary process should be completed with information that is available virtually, by telephone, or by other safe means. Scores based on the Child Outcomes Summary process can be entered between now and when school starts for the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • For a child who has a Child Outcomes Summary process completed during the mandated school closure, the Early Learning Assessment is not a required source of evidence for spring 2020. Please refer to the ODE provided  Child Outcomes Policy (Adobe pdf)  for other sources of information that should be used.

Will I be required to provide education services for my students with disabilities in-person to ensure a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE)?

Not necessarily. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is recognizing that federal and state disability laws allow flexibility for determining how to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Alternative education delivery models may be considered to safely meet the needs of students who receive special education services. These alternative delivery models include: blended learning, remote learning, and in-person education that meets district health and safety guidelines. This means that it may not be necessary for special education providers to report to school buildings when their general education and unified arts colleagues are working remotely due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

IEP teams should be convened to make decisions regarding how individual students with disabilities should receive their services. Please note that ODE says that no matter where the learning occurs, supports and services identified within the student’s IEP must be provided “to the extent practicable” without putting the health and safety of students and educators at risk. Please work with your local association and your LRC to determine equitable and safe working conditions.

What are the expectations for determining how to provide services for students with disabilities as schools re-open for the 2020-2021 school year?

When considering how to deliver services for students with disabilities, ODE expects school districts to:

  • Continue to provide a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) for all students with disabilities.
  • Protect the physical, mental, and emotional safety of students and staff.
  • Facilitate collaboration between district staff and families and/or caregivers to support students who receive special education services.
  • Document communication between educators and families/caregivers with respect to service delivery.

What are the expectations regarding family engagement when developing service delivery models for students with disabilities?

ODE stresses that collaboration is a priority when identifying appropriate services, supports, and least restrictive learning environments for students with disabilities. OEA members should document the date, time, and communication method of the collaboration and take notes about expectations for all members of the IEP team.

Are Evaluation Team Report (ETR) and Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings required to be held in person?

No. ETR and IEP meetings may be conducted virtually. When conducting an ETR or IEP meeting, the health, safety and wellness of students, parents and staff must be considered and drive decisions regarding whether meetings occur remotely or face to face. All attempts to obtain parental consent and participation should be documented according to district and school policies and procedures, and a prior written notice (PR-01) should be completed and provided to parents.

What are the Evaluation Team Report (ETR) requirements for the 2020-2021 school year?
Evaluation Team Report (ETR)

Initial ETR’s must be completed within the mandated sixty (60) day timeline, as prescribed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Ohio Administrative Code 3301-51-06.

  • Meetings Held Remotely: ETR reviews can be completed using a virtual format or by telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented by email attachment, standard mail, scanned signature, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means.
  • Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents.
  • Districts and schools may choose to conduct a records review to complete an ETR. This allows the districts and schools to update the evaluation without conducting face-to-face assessments and observations, if new assessments and observations are not needed. The method (remote, in-person, records review) of conducting an ETR review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice (PR-01) consistent with the requirements listed in Ohio Administrative Code 3301-51-05(H).

What are the Individualized Education Program (IEP) requirements for the 2020-2021 school year?

It is important for staff and parents to work collaboratively during the 2020-2021 school year to continue to support students who receive special education services. This collaboration should be documented by OEA members to ensure a “good faith effort” to provide FAPE as the IEP is reviewed and/or developed.

  • Meetings Held Remotely: IEP annual reviews can be completed using a virtual format or via telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented via email attachment, standard mail, scanned document, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means, and the method of IEP team review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice form (PR01).
  • In-Person Meetings: Face-to-face meetings must be done in a healthy and safe manner according to Ohio Department of Health and State of Ohio guidelines. Federal and state regulations as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Ohio Administrative Code regarding the Individualized Education Program (IEP) apply and should be followed.

How is Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) to be determined for the 2020-2021 school year?

LRE is determined by the student’s IEP team and based on the student’s unique needs rather than a change in placement due to a district-wide plan. The district’s plan can include many scenarios; a blended learning environment, a remote learning environment, or a traditional (face-to-face) environment.  All of these education models can be written into one IEP; however, the statements about a student’s least restrictive environment MUST be individualized to meet that student’s unique needs.

When making determinations of least restrictive environment based on the structure of the 2020-2021 school year, IEP teams must consider the following:

  • What is the district’s plan for instruction during the 2020-2021 school year?
  • Depending on the type of instruction, what are the LRE implications?
  • How will the student’s individual needs be met to support the student’s LRE through the district’s plan?
  • Does the LRE require a change to meet the individual student’s learning needs in the event of a blended learning environment or fully remote learning environment?
  • If a parent or guardian has opted to receive all instruction remotely, how will the IEP reflect the student’s unique educational needs?
  • If the family declines the IEP team’s proposed LRE, did the IEP team discuss alternative options? Does the district and the IEP team have documentation reflecting the refusal, including prior written notice and any other documentation?

What are the requirements of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) for the 2020-2021 school year?

SDI is determined based upon each student’s individual goals, objectives, and needs as written in the student’s IEP. SDI must continue to be provided as written in the student’s IEP, regardless of the learning model that is occurring. SDI should address the specialized needs for the student’s learning in a face-to-face environment, blended learning environment, or remote learning environment. All provisions can be written into one IEP; however, the statements about a student’s specially designed instruction MUST be individualized to meet that student’s unique needs. Data about the provision of all SDI must be kept by educators providing the SDI.

When making determinations for SDI, if a school is utilizing remote learning or blended learning, the IEP team must consider the following:

  • How the SDI will be provided, whether in-person, a blended learning curriculum, or completely remote?
  • How will the IEP team document the provision of SDI?
  • What types of support (such as computer access or internet) will the student need to access the SDI?

Will students with disabilities automatically receive compensatory services due to service delivery issues related to the mandated COVID-19 school building closures that occurred during the Spring of the 2019-2020 school year?

No. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has declared that special consideration is needed to determine whether compensatory services should be provided because of the mandatory closure of school buildings at the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. School districts did not fail to provide FAPE because the district stopped implementing a student’s IEP; rather, the entire state moved to remote education without choice. Therefore, the typical decision framework used to determine compensatory services for that time period does not apply.

PLEASE NOTE: If a student with a disability was refused services by a school, or otherwise did not receive services or instruction while other students were receiving services during the building closures, then actual compensatory services may be warranted.

Some students receiving special education services may demonstrate they did not make as much progress as expected or may display gaps in their learning. To close these gaps, these students will need additional services and support to resume learning based on their current levels of performance. The term “recovery services,” rather than compensatory services, describes the provision of services for students showing less than expected skills acquisition upon re-entry to school. Recovery services are not about a school or district’s intentional failure to provide services. They are a systemic approach to help students recover from unavoidable COVID-19 related service delivery interruptions.

These decisions are to be made by IEP teams. If it is determined that a student requires either recovery or compensatory services, providing these services could result in increased workload for special educators; the increased meeting time to determine the need for any additional services may also increase the workload of special educators. Local collective bargaining agreements may need to be enforced, as educators may be asked to provide services that extend their school day. The caseload/workload calculator may be completed by special educators to demonstrate the need for an adjusted caseload or workload.

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Is the internet the only approach to distance education?

Infrastructures such as high-speed internet, access to Wi-Fi networks, and mobile hotspots support the delivery of online curriculum and online classes.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  reports that 90%  of the world’s student population (approximately 1.5 billion students) are affected by nationwide school closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The variations of the offline infrastructures in communities without internet include approaches such as: packets (daily/weekly) pickup/distribution via bus routes, mail (pre-stamped envelopes), telephone, instructional TV, etc.

Has the Ohio Department of Education provided distance education guidance to schools and districts?

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has prepared a list of resources.  The Remote Learning Resource Guide is available on the ODE website: Remote Learning Resource Guide (pdf file)

Where can I find more resources about different aspects of distance education?

The National Education Association has a curation of articles, links, resources, and webinars available on the NEA website: Resources for online learning during school closures

What are the requirements for submitting a remote learning plan or a blended learning declaration?

A remote learning plan is required if a school district will rely on delivering instruction remotely for the entire school year (Standard Component of the Educational Experience) or if it is necessary to close schools (As Needed) pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code 3313.482 (disease epidemic, hazardous weather condition, etc.).

A blended learning declaration is needed if a school will provide a combination of in-person instruction and remote online instruction. Specific details about the Remote Learning Plan and the Blended Learning Declaration are available on the following ODE website: education.ohio.gov – Blended and Remote Learning Comparison

How will student attendance be counted in 2020 – 2021?

Districts will use hour increments to report student attendance. The school’s attendance practice must be documented in the Remote Learning Plan. For specific details about tracking student attendance, visit the following ODE website: education.ohio.gov – Attendance Considerations for Remote Learning Plan

What CARES Act support is available for families with children in online or hybrid school?

Family members unable to work because they are primary caregivers for children in online or hybrid school may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA is a CARES Act program for individuals who do not ordinarily qualify for unemployment benefits. In Ohio, PUA benefits are a minimum of $189/week. To be considered for PUA, individuals who previously made $269/week and worked 20 hours a week or more must first apply for traditional unemployment benefits and receive an eligibility determination. You can find more information on PUA eligibility here: Child Care and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) (Adobe pdf)

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I am set to retire at the end of this school year; will the closure impact my retirement plan?

No. As long as you continue to be “in paid status” through the end of the school year, your Final Average Salary (FAS) will not be impacted. OPERS members accrue service credit based upon months worked. If there is no change in employment status and pay, there should be no impact on accrued OPERS credit or calculation of your benefit.

Does the CARES Act impact my 403(b) or 457(b) plan?

Yes. The Cares Act provided temporary relief to COVID-19 impacted individuals by expanding opportunities for loans, in-service distributions, and suspending required minimum distributions. A bulletin outlining the CARES Act impact on your 403(b) or 457(b) is available HERE. Contact your OEA Labor Relations Consultant for more information or assistance in discussing plan design changes with your school district

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Updated October 30, 2020

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