School Days Will Not Be Made Up as COVID-19 Closures Extended Through April

With the presidential news conference over the weekend announcing the likely extension of social-distancing guidelines until the end of April, the Scotland County School District saw its window to return to school to conclude the 2019-2020 school year close even tighter.

SCR-I, which has been out of class since March 16 due to Coronavirus pandemic, originally had planned just a two-week closure related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The original return date of March 30th was backed up to April 6th when a proclamation by Missouri Governor Mike Parsons officially closed all of the state’s schools until April 6th. Similar action was also approved by the Scotland County Commission.

Following President Trump’s news conference on Sunday, March 29th when he announced a 30-day extension of the pandemic health recommendations for the nation, local officials took similar steps. Governor Parsons indicated the state likely would be extending its social distancing guidelines beyond the original April 6th date. The Scotland County Commission will hold a teleconference on Wednesday, April 1st with school officials. Area school superintendents held a similar meeting on Tuesday afternoon, March 31st to discuss the original plans to reopen schools on April 6th.

While it remains unclear if classes will resume in April, one thing local school administrators will not have to worry about is make-up days. In a March 27th letter to school administrators and financial officers, Roger Dorson, deputy commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) informed calendar and attendance reporting districts like Scotland County R-I, as well as and charter schools that they will not be required to make up FY 2019-20 calendar hours lost due to COVID-19.

Dorson explained that in order to streamline this process, DESE will send local education agencies (LEAs) an online form to collect the necessary waiver information, once the districts and charter schools have returned to offering in-seat classes.

“Hours forgiven are considered not-in-session hours and no attendance and no absent hours will be reported for that time, even though educational opportunities continue to be provided for students remotely,” Dorson said in the letter.

The DESE correspondence also addresses financial issues related to the pandemic closures.

“When a district or charter school changes the length of their school year, even if due to weather forgiveness, there is no impact on funding because it does not change the Average Daily Attendance (ADA),” explained Dorson.

The ADA is calculated by taking the actual attendance hours of the students divided by the actual possible attendance hours for the students’ building and grade level (the calendar). Thus the ADA for a student who had perfect attendance would be 1.0.

According to the DESE official, the only impact COVID-19 will have on school finances related to state funding would be if students actually missed class because of the disease  when school was officially in session.

“Districts and charter schools will see minimal impact on the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) used in the Foundation Formula calculation since the LEAs cancelled school hours will be forgiven and because the Foundation Formula payment for districts is based on the higher of the first or second preceding year’s Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA), or an estimate of the current year,” explained Dorson.

That being said, DESE is forecasting potential economic impacts on education due to the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is expected to affect Proposition C revenue, which appears unlikely to reach appropriated levels,” said Dorson. “LEAs are urged to revise budget estimates accordingly, while closely monitoring the Proposition C receipts for the remainder of the year.

DESE officials advised districts and charter schools to exercise extreme caution moving forward in the budgeting process for FY 2020-21 as the full impact COVID-19 will have on the ability to reach the State Adequacy Target in the Foundation Formula payment remains very unclear.

“It is impossible to predict the potential impact COVID-19 will have on our state’s revenues,” said Dorson. “LEAs should be conservative in any estimates for Foundation Formula, Classroom Trust Fund, Transportation, Small Schools and Proposition C payments in the coming year.”