Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

DESE-Related Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) updates this page often with new details related to COVID-19 and DESE and/or public school operations. See the topics below and click to expand each of those sections for more specific information.

Administrative Memos & Previously Released Documents
Alternative Methods of Instruction

DESE has compiled all Alternative Methods of Instruction (AMI) information on a new webpage. That information can be found at https://dese.mo.gov/alternative-methods-instruction-0.

COVID-19 Testing: Antigen and Screening Testing 

Antigen Testing Program - Relaunched with New ACON Flow Flex Tests

DHSS reopened the state’s antigen testing program on February 10, 2022. Due to the nationwide shortage of antigen tests and issues with receiving tests from our distributor (Abbott), it was necessary for the state to suspend that program indefinitely in early January. The state still cannot obtain Abbott BinaxNOW tests, but has identified two distributors with an adequate supply of ACON Flow Flex rapid antigen tests, allowing the state to reopen our antigen testing program. See information about ACON Flow Flex here.

Please note that schools can continue to use BinaxNOW antigen tests until they expire.

Schools Must Re-Apply Now to Participate

All existing antigen testing program participants will need to re-apply to receive ACON Flow Flex tests, complete the required training (there’s no video; just reviewing information online) and provide verification of that training, resubmit a test plan that includes an infectious waste disposal plan, and provide the locations of testing in order to be approved to receive tests.

It is important to note that ACON Flow Flex tests are at-home tests, different from the BinaxNOW tests, which were point-of-care tests. However, because K-12 schools would be administering these tests in a congregate setting (i.e. at school) and as an employer (when testing staff members), these tests still require a CLIA waiver. The transition to this different rapid antigen test requires the establishment of a new statewide Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) and thus verification of locations of testing and validation of training of all test administrators. Thus, it is not possible to simply transition existing BinaxNOW users to this new program and begin ordering ACON Flow Flex tests.

New standing physician’s orders specific to ACON Flow Flex have been established for all tests users previously under a DHSS standing physician’s order. These new orders are available here.

Your district/school has the option within the application to select that your facility will not administer the tests onsite, and instead hand them out to your staff and/or students for them to administer the test at home. This is a decision you can make at the local level, noting that there could be a concern with test accuracy when tests are administered at home. If you choose this option, you are not required to report test result data.

If your district/school plans to use ACON Flow Flex tests for a Test to Stay/Test to Play Program, or as part of your Screening Testing Program, the tests should be administered onsite at a school facility, not sent home with staff/students.

Different Test Quantities

The new ACON Flow Flex tests will be available to order in increments of 50, 100, 150, 300, and increments of 300 thereafter. We ask that you only order the number of tests your district/school will need for a two week period. These tests expire after December 2022 (12 months from date of manufacture) and are self-contained (since they are technically at-home tests), so the quantity of tests you order can be shared among your schools/buildings as needed. Please see the language in the application re: centralizing testing/distribution to other sites within your area. If your district/school prefers to centralize the ordering of tests and share the tests with other districts/schools in your area, only the centralized shipping location needs to complete the application. The other districts/schools that will receive tests from this central location would be listed in the Testing Locations portion of the application.

Application Information

The DHSS Rapid Antigen Test Kit Application and Resource Page for ACON Flow Flex is open now. Watch the application tutorial here. The page includes the initial application and a subject index (right side bar) to answer questions the state received during the previous distribution of antigen tests. The page also provides information about where to direct specific questions that test users may have.

Applications will typically be reviewed within 24-48 hours (M-F). You will receive an email once your application is approved confirming that you may submit an order for test kits.

Email AntigenTesting@health.mo.gov if you have any questions.

Update: BinaxNOW Expiration Date Extension

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized another expiration date extension for BinaxNOW tests. The shelf life of those tests can now be extended three (3) months from the current expiration date listed on the outside of the box. Click here to view the complete list of BinaxNOW test kit lot numbers impacted by this change. The lot number is located on the outside of the box.

Please note: Individual components inside the box will have varying expiration dates; do not pay attention to those dates. Only pay attention to the expiration date on the outside of the box beside the hour glass icon.

Schools that have tests in your inventory that have expired are encouraged to re-check the expiration dates on your inventory to see if you can now use those tests, as this FDA announcement allows use of expired tests up to three months from current expiration date (see more information here). 

There is no guarantee another extension will be granted, so if your school cannot use your current inventory of antigen tests before they expire, we strongly encourage you to share your tests with neighboring schools/districts.

Alert: New Saliva-Based PCR Testing Option for Schools

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has partnered with Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks to offer an additional COVID-19 testing option for Missouri’s K-12 schools. There is no cost to districts/schools for this testing option. This option, available to all public school districts as well as private, charter, and parochial schools, is a self-administered saliva-based PCR test to use for students and/or staff showing symptoms of COVID-19

Students/Staff will collect a saliva sample, then the district/school will collect samples and coordinate with the vendor for shipping the samples to a lab for processing. Concentric provides materials to help test takers prepare for testing. Districts/schools will then be notified of the test results within 48 hours.

Districts/Schools interested in receiving these PCR tests should email K12screeningtesting@health.mo.gov.

Screening Testing

Please see the following important information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

COVID-19 Screening Testing Program for Missouri K-12 Schools Offers Additional Layer of Prevention for 2021-22 School Year

DHSS is offering Missouri’s K-12 local education agencies the opportunity to participate in a COVID-19 screening testing program using a pooled testing approach during the 2021-22 school year. Please reference the Missouri Screening Testing Program for K-12 Schools Guide for complete information about the program. Screening testing means regularly (e.g., weekly) testing people without symptoms with the goal of identifying and isolating COVID-19 positive individuals. This type of testing can help schools identify potential outbreaks early and give them the confidence needed to safely, and with precautions, maintain in-person learning for their students. Screening testing is just one piece of a comprehensive approach for COVID-19 mitigation in schools. 

For more information about Missouri’s K-12 Screening Testing Program and other questions about screening testing, please contact K12screeningtesting@health.mo.gov or visit the K-12 Screening Testing webpage.

 

CDC & U.S. Department of Education Information
Civil Rights Resources for Schools

U.S. Department of Education Provides Technical Assistance Amid Pandemic: The U.S. Department of Education’s (USED’s) Office for Civil Rights has released new COVID-19-related technical assistance for elementary and secondary schools. The technical assistance document, Questions and Answers for K-12 Public Schools in the Current COVID-19 Environment, is issued primarily in response to inquiries received by USED and provides important information related to schools’ obligations under Section 504/Title II, Title VI and Title IX as schools continue to make decisions regarding the provision of educational services for all children.

Early Childhood Information
  • Review the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs

    Updates to the guidance emphasize the importance of universal masking for everyone ages 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status. Additionally, this guidance provides more information on screening testing and updated guidance for fully vaccinated staff. Early care and education (ECE) programs can promote vaccinations among staff and families, including pregnant women, by providing information about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination, encouraging vaccine trust and confidence, and establishing supportive policies and practices. The updated version of the guidance outlines strategies for ECE programs to implement to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain safer operations. ECE programs include child care centers, home-based and family child care programs, Head Start programs, and other prekindergarten programs.

  • Missouri First Steps Guidance Manual
  • First Steps Notice of Action/Consent During COVID-19
#HealthyatSchool Toolkit

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is providing a toolkit for local education agencies, state organizations and the general public to access social media and other shareable content for the #HealthyatSchool "Sick? Stay Home!" campaign. Please visit the #HealthyatSchool toolkit for more specific information.

Operating Guidance for Schools

U.S. Department of Education's 2022 Guide to Staying in School In-Person

Operating Guidance for Schools

DHSS and DESE have compiled the Missouri School COVID-19 Operating Guidance document. Information previously found in DHSS’ Guidance for Assessing COVID-19 Exposures and Defining Close Contacts in a School Setting document is now contained in the main/primary DHSS/DESE guidance document, allowing all information to be found in one place.

The section regarding guidance for assessing exposures and recommendations regarding quarantine of close contacts includes the following key additions:

  • Option 4 – Test to Stay: See pg. 5 for complete details about the Test to Stay Option that enables a close contact to continue activities during the quarantine period through participation in frequent testing. The Test to Stay Option provides LPHAs and LEAs an additional option to consider for persons who do not meet current options for staying in school following an exposure to COVID-19 in the K-12 setting.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): See pg. 7 for FAQs and their responses, covering topics including, but not limited to: at home tests, antibody tests, and the use of ShowMeVax.
  • Resources and Tools: See pgs. 12-15 for resources, including the DHSS/DESE graphic and flowchart that describe the recommended scenario-based options for quarantine as outlined in the updated guidance document, including the Test to Stay Option.

In December 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released two studies around Test to Stay programs and, as a result, updated its guidance for schools to reflect the use of Test to Stay. Here are the links to review the new information from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and the CDC:

 

U.S. Department of Education's “Return to School Roadmap”

On August 2, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released the “Return to School Roadmap,” a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall. The roadmap provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning.

ABC Science Collaborative Publishes COVID-19 Resource & Guidance

The ABC Science Collaborative has identified strategies to help school leaders use current data to consider the best, safest, and most practical policies to promote attendance in the classroom, where most students learn best, during the 2021–22 school year. The ABC Science Collaborative coordinated a comprehensive review of the current scientific literature and available data on COVID-19 transmission and mitigation strategies for K–12 schools. The group recently published a summary of those findings – COVID-19 and Schools: The Year in Review and a Path Forward – to provide an informational resource and practical guidance for school leaders and policy makers to consider as they plan a path forward for safely resuming full in-person instruction in the coming school year.

The ABC Science Collaborative is coordinated by the Duke Clinical Research Institute at the Duke University School of Medicine and is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Additional Resources

Additional reopening and operating guidance information can be found in the following resources:

Special Education Information & Guidance

Early Childhood Special Education opportunities are of great value to children and their families. Attending a high-quality preschool program that is in a public school, or is community-based, provides children with rich experiences that support on-going success in school. Given these unusual times, early childhood experiences, especially for our most vulnerable populations (e.g., children with disabilities, English language learners), can help close opportunity and achievement gaps that have been persistent in Missouri. During COVID-19, guidance is being issued in response to changing circumstances and information. The ECSE COVID-19 Resource Table is designed to provide resources for early childhood special educators and parents to access as enhancements to learning. Please note that many community-based childcare programs continue to serve children safely through the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

After receiving many questions from constituents, the DESE Office of Special Education developed a COVID-19 question and answer guide. The compliance team utilized information from a variety of resources, including guidance documents posted by other states and national organizations as well as questions received from Missouri educators serving special education students. State and local education agencies are testing these uncharted waters together. Our challenge is to think about the intent and purpose behind the procedural requirements for each step of the special education process, and then lead teams as they reflect on how they can fulfill that same purpose and intent in an alternate way, in light of our current circumstances. We must do the best we can to stay true to the intent of IDEA.  Please remember to review the daily LRP site for new information. View the DESE Special Education Compliance COVID-19 Question and Answer Guide.

 


Statutory Waivers

Executive Order 21-09which declared a State of Emergency due to COVID-19, expired on December 31, 2021. Therefore, the following education-related statutory waivers are now terminated:

  • Use of School Buses — Section 163.161.1, RSMo
  • Retired Member of PSRS Working for a District — Sections 169.560.1 and .2, RSMo
  • Retired Member of PSRS Working for a District — Section 169.660.2, RSMo

With the expiration of the Retired Member of PSRS/PEERS waiver, the counting period for the 550 hour limit will begin January 1, 2022, and continue through June 30, 2022.

The following education-related statutory waivers were previously terminated:

  • Hearings for Unaccredited or Provisionally Accredited — Section 162.081.2, RSMo
  • Professional Development Fund, etc. — Section 160.530, RSMo
  • Hold Harmless Districts Exempt from Withholdings — Section 163.031.7, RSMo
  • Transfers to and from the Incidental Fund — Section 165.011, RSMo
  • Audits of Records — Section 165.121.4, RSMo and 5 CSR 30-4.030
Vaccine Information

CDC’s Guide to School-Located Vaccination Clinics: Best Practices for School Districts
The CDC’s School-Located Vaccination Clinics: Best Practices for School Districts provides a roadmap for school administrators to work directly with local health departments and other vaccine providers (e.g., pharmacies) to set up vaccination clinics in places that K-12 students and their parents know and trust. The guide provides a three-tiered approach for school districts to follow to partner with an appropriate vaccine provider for school-located vaccination clinics. 

In addition to identifying a partner vaccine provider, School-Located Vaccination Clinics: Best Practices for School Districts for School Districts provides guidance relating to roles and responsibilities, date and site selection, outreach, and hosting the clinic.

Children and COVID-19 Vaccination

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents age 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children and adolescents age 5 and up, as a 2-dose series taken 3 weeks apart. The dose for children age 5-11 is one-third of the dosage of the vaccine for older adolescents and adults.

Vaccination is the best way to protect children age 5 and older from COVID-19. COVID-19 has become one of the top 10 causes of pediatric death, and tens of thousands of children and teens have been hospitalized with COVID-19. While children and adolescents are typically at lower risk than adults of becoming severely ill or hospitalized from COVID-19, it is still possible.

The vaccine is safe and effective. Before being authorized for children, scientists and medical experts completed their review of safety and effectiveness data from clinical trials of thousands of children. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was rigorously tested and reviewed, and more than 11 million adolescents ages 12-17 have already safely received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Visit MOStopsCOVID.com for more information and details on how to get a vaccine for your child.

Vaccine Promotion Resources from U.S. DHHS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS’) COVID-19 Public Education Campaign has made available two great resources to promote COVID-19 vaccination as we approach the new school year.

The Back to School toolkit (English and Spanish) is available for school district leaders, teachers, parent leaders, and school supporters that want to help increase confidence in and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in their school. The toolkit includes vaccination clinic guides, resources for parent leader meetings, and more. The resource hub has a number of outreach materials specifically designed for various audiences, including students and parents.

Vaccine Toolkit

The Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a vaccine toolkit for Missouri schools with easily accessible information regarding the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible children.

Complete information about the COVID-19 vaccine can be found at MOStopsCOVID.com.

Webinars Hosted

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Outdated COVID-19 information from the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years has been archived here.