FAQ About COVID-19

AQs will be updated frequently. Please check back often as there may additional information provided.

Sick Time/Pay/Working From Home

Q:  Will staff need to use sick time if they (or an immediate family member as described in the Employee Handbook) are ill because of COVID-19 or if they are quarantined/isolated? What about third-party contracted employees? 
A: Should a staff member need to use sick time for a COVID-related situation, staff will be given 10 paid days using the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).  Also, should staff use more sick time for COVID-related situations, they will also receive an additional 15 paid sick days from the district. This special sick time allotment will be available for employees through December 31, 2020. Contracted staff need to check with their employer regarding COVID-related situations.

Q: Will employees still be paid if our region returns to Phase 3 of the MI Safe Start Plan?

A: Yes. The district, as part of its Preparedness Response Plan, is required to pay all staff members while in Phase 3 of the plan. This includes third-party employees. Per the Preparedness Response Plan, staff may be re-purposed to complete necessary functions of the district.

Q: Will staff members be able to work from home?

***On November 18, an Emergency Order from MDHHS was put into effect requiring employers to permit staff members to work remotely if feasible. 

A: Employees who are placed on quarantine/isolation or are dealing with COVID-19 issues will use the special sick time allocations being afforded by the district. They will not be expected to work from home. 

Even for staff members who may be able to perform their work remotely, they will still be expected to report to work. Unlike the spring when emergency plans had to be put in place, the state permitted us to allow staff to work from home while being on call. For some staff members, working remotely was a feasible option. For others, they could not do any work or had to come to come to their worksite a few hours a week to accomplish tasks. With the expectations of the MI Safe Schools Return to School Road Map, this is no longer the case. The expectation is that no matter what phase our region is in, students and education stakeholders will continue to receive services. It is important to remember that Berrien RESA staff members are considered essential workers. The services and support you each provide to our students and stakeholders is critical to the development, growth and education of Berrien County children. With that being said, Berrien RESA is doing everything it can to provide a safe and healthy working environment for all staff members.

Q: If I travel domestically, am I required to quarantine prior to returning to work?

A:  Currently, the State of Michigan does not have a quarantine requirement for those traveling out of state. Please review the CDC recommendations if you plan to travel from your local community.

Q: What if I travel internationally? Do I have to quarantine upon my return?

A: The CDC recommends all international travelers to stay home and monitor their health for 14* days. Employees will be required to utilize leave time during the monitoring period.

Home Visiting Services

Q:  Will Home Visiting Services continue to be offered?

A:  Yes, services will continue to be offered virtually unless a family requests an in-person meeting. If that is the case, staff members should use the home visiting protocol provided by their supervisors. If desired, staff may encourage families to meet outdoors or at a setting that promotes health and safety.

Q:  We often encounter families that under-report or minimize symptoms even when asked about their health status by phone.  What should we do in these situations?

A: All home visitors will follow the specific guidance provided to them by their supervisors which is based on the Michigan Home-based Early Childhood Services Guide. This guidance outlines safety procedures that should be used to protect the health and safety of staff members and the families they are serving. If families are unwilling to follow home-based guidelines, the visit should be completed in a virtual manner.

Q: If the family requests an in-home visit but the home visitor is aware that the family is not following health protocols outside of the visit, what are staff members' options? Can home visits be scheduled at location where sinks are available and temperature screening can be done? 

A: If staff members are concerned about their safety, please alert your supervisor. Alternative service arrangements may be made to provide the service including hosting the meeting in a location where family members can wash their hands and perform a temperature check.

Q:  For home visiting programs, is it only meetings that can be provided in person if requested by parents or can overall services be offered?

A:  If parents are requesting other services, services can be arranged following the same guidelines as all other home visiting safety protocols.

(Added 8-28-2020)
Q:  Staff want procedures in writing of what to do when not feeling safe in district/homes (chain of command).

A:  If for any reason you do not feel safe, please have a conversation with your supervisor. They have been regularly reviewing staff concerns with other leaders and have been problem solving issues that are unique or have not been specifically addressed in our SMART Re-Start plan.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  My concern is, I'm a home visitor and I'm in the community. That is where it is happening. Families aren't thinking about this the same way as I think about this.

A:  With the rising numbers of positive cases in Berrien County, this is certainly a concern we have for our staff members who are providing services in uncontrolled environments. We are working closely with the Health Department to evaluate our service procedures to ensure the health and safety of our team members as well as the families they serve. This is a top priority and is being discussed currently. More information will be shared as soon as it is available.

***Home visiting services transitioned to virtual services on November 16.


Q: What are the protocols that must be followed when working with students at the Berrien County Juvenile Center?

A: In addition to daily health screening expectations addressed in the SMART Re-Start plan, staff members will be expected to follow the guidelines outlined by the Berrien County Court System and the state's guidance relative to resident facilities.


Q: There is a lot of COVID-19 health data available via the Berrien County Health Department's COVID-19 Dashboard. There are also a lot of news reports with fluctuating infection, hospitalization, death and recovery rates. There are also a number of school districts in the surrounding area that have decided to close for the first few months of the school year (providing remote instruction). How does Berrien RESA make the decision to provide in-person instruction or move to remote instruction?

A:  Decisions about remaining open or moving to remote instruction will be made collaboratively with the Berrien County Health Department. Remember, there may be a need to close individual classrooms and school buildings throughout the 2020-21 school year. Any decisions will be made with the guidance of area health experts. Decisions to close (and reopen) will be communicated with staff using the School Messenger system. Also, should our region be downgraded to Phase 3 of the MI Safe Start Plan, all districts in the region will offer remote instruction.

Q: Many school districts in Michigan and in Indiana have decided to start their school years remotely. Would Berrien RESA make this decision as some point?

A:  We continue to meet with area superintendents and the Berrien County Health Department on a weekly basis. Data is reviewed and discussed to determine next steps. As we move forward, all decisions will be made to keep staff and students safe. This may include moving from in-person to remote instruction and back again. If any decisions are made, will work to keep everyone informed.

(Added 8-10-2020)
Q:  In the event that local districts decide to start there year virtually, will Berrien RESA follow suit?

A:  Most likely we will have to follow suit, but will have to carefully consider the special education needs of our students. A face-to-face option may still apply to our programs as long as we are approved by the Berrien County Health Department to meet in person.

Q: Will staff members still be expected to work if the district closes for in-person learning?

A: Yes. Staff will be expected to report to work regardless of what Phase of the MI Safe Start Plan our region is in or if instruction is provided remotely or in-person.

(Added August 8-11-202
Q: Is it possible for all Berrien County schools to close at the same time or will districts close individually on a case-by-case basis? Is it possible for a local district to close and Berrien RESA's programs to remain open?

A:  If Gov. Whitmer downgrades our region to Phase 3, all schools within our region will be closed to students. Schools buildings will be open to essential staff, like teachers, para professionals, etc. When a region is in Phase 4, schools may provide in-person instruction. Superintendents in Berrien County continue to discuss options on a weekly basis and as more/new data becomes available. There will be every attempt to coordinate school closures and shift to remote learning, in consultation with the Berrien County Health Department. It is possible that individual classrooms, school buildings, or districts may close in the upcoming months, while others remain open. These will most likely be short term closures and as much as possible, schools have planned for a flexible shift to remote learning when needed.

 (Added 8-28-2020)
Q: Who decided it was safe to return (what team and who was on it?)

A: The decision to return to work is based upon the following data which is reviewed weekly with the Berrien County Health Department:
-The trend of COVID-19 cases or positive tests, hospitalizations due to COVID-19; and the number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 in the past 14-day period.
COVID cases per each day for every 1 million people.
-The percentage of positive COVID tests over a four week period.
-Health care capacity strength.
-Testing, tracing and containment infrastructure with regard to COVID.

This data has been reviewed with all Superintendents in Berrien County since late July. While individual days may elevate the overall trend data has been in a downward direction. Testing capacity in Berrien County is the highest in the state of Michigan per capita. COVID deaths have been very low for the past month and hospitalizations are low as well. We have received the "green light" from the BCHD over the past four weeks that it is safe to start the school year. The team consists of personnel from the Berrien County Health Department, area superintendents, Berrien RESA Superintendent/Leadership, and the Berrien RESA Board.

(Added 8-28-2020)
Q: Are most other RESA's returning to work?

A: A survey completed by the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators on August 20, 2020 indicated that 40 of 42 ISDs would be starting face-to-face instruction this fall. Two of the ISDs indicated they would start remote, but be face-to-face by mid-September. All 6 of the ISDs within our region (southwest Michigan) are starting with face-to-face instruction.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  If that state moves back, everybody, regardless of where they are located, would the same (remote) rules apply?

A:  Yes, the same rules will apply to everyone in our organization.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  If we move into remote learning, what will be the protocol for teaching in person as ancillary staff? A parent of a student I teach has requested that if remote learning occurs, I come to the home for lessons. 

A:  If we move back to Phase 3 of the MI Safe Start Plan, all services will be provided remotely. If remote instruction is necessary to accommodate a quarantine scenario, staff will need to review that students’ IEP to determine how to provide instruction in a manner that delivers FAPE.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  To be clear, in this case, staff still report to the building?

A:  Unless you are specifically quarantined, all staff will be expected to report to their buildings to continue to offer educational services during remote learning and if our region is moved back to Phase 3 of the MI Safe Start Plan.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  Will there be additional space for those of us sharing offices/cubicles to do virtual sessions?  Many of us need to move and can get loud making it difficult to do in a shared space. To clarify if all of us are remote at the same time.

A:  The conference rooms in the Administrative Building will be made available to accommodate staff needs. 


Q: How does the district make decision on what health and safety protocols to follow?

A: Berrien RESA, along with all of the local school district in Berrien County, is following the health and safety guidelines outlines in the MI Safe School Return to School Road Map as recommendations made by the Berrien County Health Department. We are also following expectations outline by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Q: What should students do who are at offsite locations and may not have access to sinks? Have we considered portable hand washing stations?

A:  The district did look into purchasing mobile sinks. Unfortunately, they are very difficult to procure. Instead, hand sanitizer is the recommended use in this situation.

Q: Should nursing staff be assigned to help students and staff with symptom screening?

A: The screening process that the district is using for staff does not require the assistance of someone with medical credentials. Parents/guardians are being asked to monitor children at home, prior to coming to school. Thermometers are being provided to all staff and all Berrien RESA supported families. Again, medical credentials are not required to operate the thermometers.

Q:  How will we protect our staff, students and community when we are unable to prevent the spread of the virus when we meet in-person, even if everyone wears a mask?

A: While we cannot completely eliminate the risk of exposure, we can try to the best of our ability to reduce the chance of being exposed. According to the Berrien County Health Department, we should approach risk reduction like a triangle. Each corner represents a mitigation strategy: cohorting, using face coverings and social distancing. If someone cannot tolerate a mask, the other two strategies will still support risk-reduction efforts.

Q:  What will be done as a proper replacement for masks to protect students who cannot wear masks?
A: It is our expectation that students will be taught how to properly wear a mask, even students in K-5 grades. According to the MI Safe Schools Return to School Road Map, children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, and anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance should not wear a mask. Some of our programs are very unique and dissimilar to many buildings mentioned in the Governor's guidance. Therefore, various shields will be explored to provide additional barriers in these situations. Additionally, staff may use two forms of personal protection equipment if they wish (e.g. mask and a shield).

(Added 8-28-2020)
Additional information about masks

The following bullets provide a more in-depth explanation of the requirements and recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Berrien County Health Department (BCHD), the MI Safe Schools 2020-21 Return to School Road Map, MI Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the Berrien RESA SMART Re-Start Plan:

-Face coverings must be worn by staff when with students throughout the district.

-Staff must wear face coverings when in common areas (walking through hallways or in shared building spaces). When staff are at their work areas (classrooms without students present, offices or cubicles, etc.), they do not need to wear a face covering. Physical distancing becomes critical when masks are removed and you must remask when distancing cannot be maintained.

-Face coverings may be homemade (which must be washed daily) or disposable Level-1 grade surgical masks. Coverings should cover the mouth and nose when worn. Gator masks are acceptable. 

-Staff that cannot medically tolerate a face covering must provide a doctor’s note to the Human Resource Office. 

-Shields are not considered replacements for face coverings, however may be used as an additional layer of protection if social distancing, face covering or cohorting can not be included as part of the mitigation strategy. 

Q:  What is the protocol to report staff in the school who refuse to wear a mask?

A: Per the MI Safe Schools Return to School Road Map, all staff members are required to wear a mask (or approved face covering) unless the are not medically able to wear a mask. A doctor's note will be required, if unable to wear a mask.

Q: Neither the parent nor the staff survey directly ask how staff feel about returning to work.  Should this question be asked? (In the staff survey, 47% indicated that they had a positive view of remote learning.)

A:  We recognize, understand and respect how difficult this situation is for everyone. There are a lot of unknowns, and what we do know changes every day. District administrators are very grateful for the collaboration and proactive brainstorming everyone has been contributing to our back to school plans. As the school year progresses, it will be important to continue sharing this feedback and building upon best health and safety practices no matter if instruction is being delivered in-person or remotely.

Staff should also know that, through Executive Order 2020-142, we are required to deliver educational opportunities at a level greater than what was offered this spring. If we don't uphold specific educational, social-emotional, food service and other critical school supported functions, the district could be in jeopardy of losing significant funding (which then could result in program cuts and layoffs).

Q:  What Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) will be provided for staff and students?

A:  Currently, we have on hand enough disposable PPE for staff and students to use daily through the end of December. Additional cloth face coverings are being purchased for all staff and students. Staff will receive a care package during Opening Week that will include a thermometer and two Berrien RESA face masks.

Q: What is the specific process for staff members to follow if they live with someone who is at risk and have concerns. How will decisions relative to accommodating staff be made? 

A: All staff members should follow the health protocols outlined by the Berrien County Health Department. If staff members need a specific accommodation, they should contact their supervisor and the Human Resource Office.

Q:  Will Berrien RESA be following CDC protocols when caring for those with COVID-19 symptoms (sick room, cleaning protocols, sending individuals home)?

A:  Yes. The expectations for caring for a sick student or staff member have been outlined in the SMART Re-Start Guide.

Q:  If a student has been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, are they still allowed to come to school? 

A: Per the Berrien County Health Department, the student would not be permitted to come to school. The Health Department has created a flow chart along with a number of scenarios to help staff members and parents understand health requirements when someone is isolated, quarantined, in close contact and tests positive. The information is part of the Launch2Learn Content that will be available on the Berrien RESA homepage.

Q:  How is quarantining going to work? At what point will a staff member, student, or classroom have to do so? If I have to quarantine myself, will I be responsible for teaching still (remotely)?

A:  The process for quarantining (and when it is necessary) is outlined in the Launch2Learn Guide that will be posted on the Berrien RESA website. There is no expectation for staff members to work from home while under quarantine. 

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  I feel like there is a lot of confusion among us regarding who will be quarantined if someone on the staff becomes positive. Will you clarify how the health department determines that?

A:  Although there are a number of unique factors considered for each positive case, what typically happens is when anyone who has been within 6 feet of the positive case for 15 minutes or more during their infectious period (two days prior to first showing symptoms), they would be considered a close contact and need to quarantine for 14* days. If the positive case involves an asymptomatic person, then the infectious period begins two days prior to being tested for COVID-19. When the district learns about a positive case, we then work with the Health Department to determine who is considered a close contact. For more information, be sure to review the quarantine process as outlined in the Launch2Learn document. 

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  If I happen to be on a quarantine list and I don't believe I had contact with the person in question, am I able to get off the list if I contact the health department?

A:  No. Once you are on the quarantine list, you must complete your quarantine obligation.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  Winter is bound to get worse and with contact tracing falling behind, how do we plan to help mitigate the spread here after people visit family for the holidays, etc.?

A:  We encourage everyone to continue to follow all mitigation measures throughout their daily activities, whether at work or not. Over the course of the school year, staff members have spent time at social events and traveling in the evening and on weekends. We are hopeful, for the safety of everyone, that we are all following the CDC guidelines. It is also critical that staff are vigilant about monitoring themselves for symptoms. If you are ill, DO NOT COME TO WORK. This practice has prevented exposures and mass quarantines.

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:   Is close contact still considered 15 minutes without a mask?

A:  Close contact is considered 15 minutes with a mask or without a mask - it does not matter. A mask is a preventive measure, it is not an impermeable barrier. 

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  In a shared cubicle where we are at least 12 feet apart, do we need to wear a mask when we are both in the cubicle? 

A:  All staff, no matter the size of the room or how far you are apart, when you are in the presence of another person who is not in your immediate family, you must wear a face covering. 
(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  Can we get some clarification - I've heard different ways that the Health Department is now asking people to quarantine or when they are in contact with people - it is different than what is in the Launch2Learn plan with the roadmap. I've heard they're looking at it differently - like using when people are having symptoms and going back two days from that as opposed to 14 days from contact. Can we update our information to make sure that's reflective of that?

A:  After receiving this question, the Launch2Learn document was reviewed with the Health Department and the person who asked the question. It is accurate but an addition was made to remind readers to refer to the definition of a close contact. Remember, although there are a number of unique factors considered for each positive case, what typically happens is when anyone who has been within 6 feet of the positive case for 15 minutes or more during their infectious period (two days prior to first showing symptoms), they would be considered a close contact and need to quarantine for 14 days. If the positive case involves an asymptomatic person, then the infectious period begins two days prior to being tested for COVID-19. When the district learns about a positive case, we then work with the Health Department to determine who is considered a close contact. 

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  I get best practices - wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, etc., but just to clarify even if we're doing that and a person you are in the same room with or meeting with tests positive, you will still be quarantined for 14* days even if you have followed that protocol?

A:  If you follow that protocol, no you would not need to be quarantined. Please remember though, each case is unique. Individuals may have been within 6 feet of someone for less than 15 minutes multiple times in one day. That cumulative exposure will count toward your total exposure time, making you close contact. 

Q:  Are students being staggered as they enter buildings for check-in?

A:  Entry processes are still being discussed, however, our goal is to reduce bottle-necks as much as possible to ensure social distancing. The best opportunity to reduce this risk is by having parents/guardians perform symptom checks prior to students leaving their homes for school.

Q:  Will students be sent home if they are sick? If a parent doesn't answer or come to pick up their child, do we have a plan?

A:  Yes, students will wait in designated "wellness areas" while parents are being contacted. They are expected to transport students home. (School transportation cannot be used to transport a sick child home.) We will continue to work with parents to emphasize that if a student is ill, don't send the child to school.

Q:  How will we deal with students coughing/etc. at each other or staff?

A:  All students will participate in proper coughing and sneezing education to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other germs. Additionally, proper face coverings, social distancing and cohorting will be used to help reduce the spread.

 (Added 8-28-2020)
Q: Some staff feel the buildings are not being cleaned. People have been putting objects in certain locations and they are not moved so they don't think custodial staff are cleaning even when signs are out that the area has not been cleaned. What surfaces are cleaned, how often, are we responsible for cleaning shared spaces, etc.?

A: Cleaning protocols have been addressed in our SMART Re-Start Plan and the Welcome Back Guide. Additionally, specific steps relative to work spaces in the Admin. Building will be addressed in a separate email to those staff members. (The email content is contained in the section "Cleaning-Admin. Center".

(Added 8-28-2020)
Cleaning- Admin. Center

There are a few specific cleaning procedures that need to be shared with staff who work in the Administrative Building.

Please be sure to:

Help out the Facilities and Operations team by wiping down your work space as an additional preventative measure at the end of your work day. An EPA approved cleaning solution and paper towels can be found in central areas in each department. (If you notice you are running low on these items - or any other health or safety product, please ask your team's secretary to contact Facilities for refills.)  

Put all of your paperwork in a pile or in a cabinet to allow for our Facilities and Operations team to spray disinfectant in your work area. An Ozone Mist is utilized to sanitize the area. For confidentiality reasons they do not move items on your desk. Surfaces cannot be fully cleaned if papers are in the way. (Items hanging on walls/cubicle dividers do not need to be removed.)

Be sure to flip your "This Area Has Been Cleaned" sign to help remind cleaning staff that you did work in your office area/cubicle.

Also, just as a reminder, the Administrative Center (as well as BLC and LEC) continuously draws fresh air from outside to be pumped through HVAC systems. Air is not recirculated. While we cannot open our windows, fresh air is still being provided throughout the building.

A Closer Look at Disinfecting (Added 9-3-2020)

A staff member recently asked, “Is the district really cleaning our office areas? I don’t see any evidence of my desk being cleaned when I return to work in the morning.”

To help answer this question, it is important to decipher the difference between the words “cleaning” and “disinfecting”.

Facilities and Operations staff members have a specific and routine cleaning schedule that they follow to vacuum carpets, empty trash cans, clean restrooms, wax floors, dust, etc. We have asked all staff to also support these cleaning efforts by wiping down personal work spaces at the end of each day and making sure that they flip their “This Area Has Been Cleaned” signs over to indicate that their office space needs attention.

As part of our SMART Re-Start plan, the team has added a number of disinfecting procedures to ensure the health of all our staff. This includes cleaning carpets, tile flooring and other surfaces with ozonated water and wiping down high touch surfaces with EPA approved disinfectants (i.e. door knobs, door handles, counter tops, student desks and chairs, conference tables and chair arms after meetings, etc.). Ozonated water will not be sprayed if paperwork is spread out on desks (paperwork will not be touched out of respect for confidentiality.)

To help you visualize what the ozonated disinfecting process looks like, a video has been created featuring an ozone spraying demonstration. You will see that this is an aerolized process. No wiping of surfaces occurs as part of disinfection.

Q:  Will Berrien RESA center-based programs be offering a remote option for families that do not feel comfortable sending their children to school?

A: Yes. As required by the MI Safe Schools Return to School Road Map, remote options will be available. Families should contact their student's building principal/supervisor to learn more about their options.

Q: Will students still be able to participate in specials like computers or gym?

A: Yes. Students will still be able to rotate in to specials although with careful attention to cleaning protocols for high traffic/high touch areas. If possible, some specials (like music therapy) may travel directly to classrooms.

Q:  If staff members become ill during remote learning, will subs teach students online?

A:  Yes. We will continue to offer remote learning even if staff become ill.

Q:  If someone living in our house has to quarantine do to exposure and therefore the rest of the house has to also quarantine, will the district be utilizing a sub for 14 days? 

A: Yes. 

Q:  Will substitutes be required to participate in a symptom screening?

A:  Substitutes will be treated like staff members. They will be required to complete the same health checks when in-person instruction is being provided using the MI Symptom Portal.

Q:  What is going to happen if we can't get a substitute if we are ill?

A:  The district will create a plan to temporarily re-purpose staff to meet instructional and support needs.

Q: What is platform will the district use to provide remote instruction?

A: We will be using Google Classroom and Class Dojo.

Q: Will student Chromebooks be here before school starts? 

A: Mostly, but our order is considered a special order. The national supply chain may dictate delays with special orders over existing orders.

Q: How will staff members be able to reduce risk factors when participating in Community Based Instruction?

A: Community based instruction will continue to be offered if the business/organization is still willing to provide opportunities for students and that the environment is deemed safe for student participation (just like any other school year when students work at job sites as part of their education plan). Students will be expected to follow the health and safety protocols established by employers, just as if they were actual employees. For students needing to use public transportation, they will follow the health and safety practices outlined by that company, just like members of the public.

Q:  Will Berrien RESA prioritize outdoor teaching?

A:  Berrien RESA programs are welcome to use outdoor spaces for instruction. It is important that staff are mindful of medical needs relative to outdoor environments.


Q: Are we going to be provided with the technology needed to teach from home if necessary? A: If the district moves to remote learning, staff will still come to work (considered essential employees). Staff members will have access to technology, equipment and high-speed internet at their worksites. 


Q:  Are IEPs and REEDs going to be conducted virtually?

A: Yes. Until our region returns to Phase 6 of the MI Safe Start Plan, there will be no guests or visitors to the buildings unless they are essential to the health or safety of a student or the student body or are performing an essential function in order for the building/Berrien RESA/local district to operate. If parents/guardians cannot access technology, alternative plans will need to be made to meet face-to-face (using appropriate safety precautions). 

Q:  Do we need to write goals that can be monitored if we end up teaching virtually?

A: Write IEP goals to reflect the offer of FAPE that you would normally provide if meeting in person. Within the IEP, you will need to make mention of contingencies that will be put into place in the event that instruction becomes remote.

Q: Some of our IEP goals are hard to assess online. Should staff members be looking into how we can provide assessments online in the event that we have to close again?

A:  Yes. We will be encouraging rigorous learning targets that can be assessed online. We may need to specify in an IEP how alternative assessments will take place during remote or online learning.

Working with local districts

(Added 10-30-2020)
Q:  When a local district has a positive case or they may have a potential case, how is that information shared with you?

A: There is a superintendent listserv where that information is shared. Once Berrien RESA is alerted, the message is forwarded to the Impact Team. It is up to the Impact team to let impacted staff know that buildings/classrooms are closed. This system is not perfect. As a county, we are doing our best to keep everyone informed. If you have questions about current COVID cases or cumulative case counts by school building, there is a dashboard on the Berrien RESA homepage that is populated with the latest COVID information by the Berrien County Health Department.

(Added 10-30-2020) 
Q:  As a consultant, I've gone into a building where staff are not masked and I feel like it puts me in a precarious position. I'm selling my services and want them to want me to be in their buildings, so to be confrontational seems awkward - but it is also for their protection and mine. Do you guys have any recommendation on how we might handle that situation?

A:  You are welcome to encourage others to wear a mask, however, it is not your job to be mask enforcement. If you are having an issue, please address it with your supervisor. Your supervisor will address it with the local district in question.


Future Questions/Feedback

Q: How was staff feedback incorporated into the SMART Re-Start plan, and how will it be included in future plans/decisions relative to COVID-19?
A: Staff members from across the district were included in the development of the Plan. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Berrien County Health Department, local school district and the MI Safe Schools Return to School Road Map also outlined expectations and protocols.  Staff members were invited to review the plan before it was shared publicly and will have ongoing opportunities to share feedback with their supervisors and other administrators. They also have the ability to submit ideas, comments and questions to the info@berrienresa.org email address. Additionally, two Town Hall events were hosted based on questions received from staff. The Town Hall experience provided a number of revisions to the Plan based on their feedback alone.

The district will continue to offer surveys to measure the success of the plan as well as learn of future needs of parents, constituents and staff members.

It is important to remember that feedback, good or bad, is always welcome. Please do not wait for a public forum or formal opportunity to share your thoughts.

(Added 8-28-2020)
Q:  Is there a forum for a two-way Q&A? We can access the Q&A or streamline info (it's in multiple locations).

A:  All FAQs have been posted on the Berrien RESA website. They are updated as each question is answered by Berrien RESA leadership. As far as a two-way conversation to clarify concerns, feel free to contact your supervisor or me directly. We are all glad to talk about your worries as well as listen to your ideas/suggestions.

Q:  Is the systematic process for asking questions and getting answers in a confidential way?

A:  Staff have been approaching Supervisors, Human Resources, etc.. to ask unique questions. I continue to encourage individuals to ask questions, even if it is on behalf of others. Questions that are answered are incorporated into the COVID-19 FAQ which can be accessed online.

Child Care

Q: Will Berrien RESA be providing child care for staff members if our region transitions to Phase 3?

A: A committee has been formed to look into child care options should Berrien RESA shut down its in-person instruction model and transition to remote instruction. The goal is to provide staff with options that will allow them to continue to work and support the education of the students we serve.

(Added 8-10-2020)
Q:  Will child care only be provided in the event that Berrien RESA goes virtual?

A:  We are carefully researching providing care to staff with K-6 students in the event that we are in Phases 3 or 4. This may mean that some schools are remote while others are open, so care would be needed in both situations.

(Added 8-11-2020)
Q:  While I would appreciate a place for my kids to learn if schools are closed, based on our experiences in the spring, I am concerned that my children really need help understanding concepts and completing the work. I don't know that I would feel comfortable just having them try to do that independently while being supervised.

A: At present, we are trying to explore the interest in student care - starting with K-6 students - given the highest need for supervision while completing virtual assignments. One thing to remember is that virtual options will be more strictly monitored with higher pupil accounting expectations than in the spring of 2020. Districts will be required to provide more direct instruction, receive and grade work, provide individual mentoring time and take attendance. We share this to highlight different expectations for students and staff during the upcoming school year. Districts will be expected to be more involved in student learning with far more contact time with students, both direct instruction and follow up with work.

(Added 8-11-2020)
Q:  I appreciate the childcare opportunities, however, what about our middle school and high school children that may also need supervision?

A:  Currently, we are trying to explore the interest in school care starting with K-6 (given the highest need for supervision while completing virtual assignments). Once we assess our capacity to provide care, we can look at additional options. One thing to remember is that virtual options will be more strictly monitored with higher pupil accounting expectations than in the spring of 2020. Districts will be required to provide more direct instruction, receive and grade work, provide individual mentoring time, and take attendance. If students do not log in and complete work, they will be considered absent. We share this to highlight different expectations for students and staff during the upcoming school year. 

(Updated 10-30-2020)
Q:  In the case schools shut down, what is the situation with childcare? Is that a requirement to utilize the RESA resources? What are some of the options for people with children?

A:  School Care for students in grades K-6 is an optional service we are providing to all staff should their own child(ren)’s district or classroom move to remote instruction or if our region returns to Phase 3 of the MI Safe Start Plan. It is not required, but is an option if staff are interested. More information about School Care can be found in the staff section of the Berrien RESA website.

Executive Orders and the Health Department

Q: The Governor ordered that no indoor gatherings of more than 10 people should occur and that outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people. How does this decision effect schools when we are still in Phase 4?

A: This portion of the Governor's order does not apply to schools. Schools are under the direction of the MI Safe Schools Return to School Road Map.

(Added 8-26-2020)
Q: What if a local district is not following CDC or Berrien County Health Department, or Berrien RESA Health practices? Should staff continue servicing staff and students in that building? Are there basic essential needs from locals of safety measures to protect our staff when working with staff and students?

A: Every district in the State of Michigan was required to submit to MDE a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan that addressed how we would be implementing the Governor's Road Map to Restart School. These plans were developed in tandem with other districts and with the Berrien County Health Department. All these plans are listed on district websites. The wearing of masks, social distancing, and cohorting are part of every districts plan and a basic set of guidelines were agreed upon with all districts.

(Added 8-26-2020)
Q: Who does Berrien County Health Department get their information from and are they the same as the CDC? 

A: The Health Department uses local health data that they collect in concert with data collected and reviewed in light other health departments in the State of Michigan.  FYI-There is and has been a required reporting of communicable diseases to the health department for years. Every school building in Berrien County has an individual that is reporting cases on a daily basis.

Food Service

Q:  Should our region move to Phases 1-3, will meals still be provided to students? 

A:  Yes. Delivery of the meals will still be handled by First Student, Inc. Any vendors who will be delivering food products to the school for the meal program must follow all the safety protocols as outlined for building visitors. Berrien RESA will follow guidance provided by the federal government relative to who is eligible for meals.

*As of December 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided an option to local Health Departments to shorten quarantine periods for asymptomatic individuals (close contacts) from 14 days to 10 days, provided that individuals continue to closely monitor for symptoms through day 14. The Berrien County Health Department is supportive of this option.
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