NREA Weekly Updates: January 14th, 2022

If you can't see this email click here.
Become A Member
State Affiliates
NREA Podcast
Survey Request of Rural Education Support
Survey Request of Rural Education Support
You are invited to reply to a 15-minute survey about the extent to which you receive services and supports from your state education agency that is responsive to rural contexts. Results from this survey, jointly developed by NREA, ADI, and ICF, will help NREA and other advocates understand rural educators’ needs for assistance.
Your replies will be kept private and anonymous, and your identity will never be associated with your answers. Your participation in this survey is entirely voluntary, and you may withdraw at any time without any penalty. In addition, your participation or non-participation will not be used to positively or negatively affect you or your participation in any NREA program. If you are unable to complete the survey in one sitting, you may leave it and re-enter to finish later.
Click here to get started: Survey of Rural Education Support
If you have any questions about this survey, please contact Caitlin Howley at Thank you for your input!
Letter from Secretary Cardona re: Accessing Tests and Implementing Testing Programs in Schools
Dear Colleagues,
Thank you for your continued dedication to keeping schools safe for students and staff so they can remain open for in-person learning. We know that children learn best in the classroom, and while the past two years – and especially these past few months and weeks – have been trying, your efforts have been nothing short of heroic.
I’m writing to share new and existing resources from the federal government that can help you access tests and implements testing programs in your schools.
As we experience another surge in COVID-19 cases, we’re fortunate to be able to build on the knowledge we’ve gained and the latest science to keep students, staff, and school communities safe. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated, multiple studies have shown that transmission within school settings is typically lower than or similar to levels of community transmission when prevention strategies are in place in schools. When there are higher levels of community transmission, it is particularly important to strengthen strategies for preventing COVID-19 spread in school, like hosting vaccination clinics, implementing testing programs like Test to Stay for unvaccinated individuals, and always wearing a mask in school.
Many of you have reached out recently to share concerns about access to tests, and we have heard your concerns. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new action to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools. Through these new initiatives, the Administration will increase the number of COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million a month. This additional testing capacity will help schools safely remain open and allow them to implement screening testing and Test to Stay programs through both antigen and lab-based tests.
Below, please find four resources you can use to bring COVID-19 testing to your schools:
  1. Use your state’s COVID-19 testing program(s) and resources, funded by the CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) program: The CDC awarded $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to the ELC program to help states and schools stand-up COVID-19 testing programs. About three-quarters of recipients set up centralized contracts with COVID-19 testing providers. While programs vary by state, these arrangements allow schools to access testing resources quickly and coordinate with statewide activities, including accessing test supply and administration. Schools should review state offerings and reach out to their state to tap into ELC-funded testing providers, programs, and resources by visiting the CDC ELC webpage. In addition to the COVID-19 testing the $10 billion investment has generated, the Administration has also announced the availability of 5 million point-of-care, rapid antigen tests each month for school-based testing programs – which will be distributed through state ELC grant recipients. States can request these tests on behalf of high-need districts in their state, with prioritization for schools that can put these point-of-care tests to immediate use. To learn more about and access your state’s testing resources, and to inquire with your state about the availability of additional antigen tests for schools, please visit the CDC ELC webpage of state ELC school testing contacts.
  1. Access free lab-based testing through the CDC Operation Expanded Testing (OpET) program: The Administration announced this week availability of an additional 5 million lab-based tests from schools each month through the Operation Expanded Testing (OpET) program. The OpET program increases access to a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing nationwide for K-12 schools, child care centers, and other settings. Four regional hubs provide sample collection supplies, shipping costs, and shipping materials needed to send specimens to the laboratory, laboratory testing, and results reporting at no direct cost to recipients. Districts across the country have been successfully using the OpET program since its launch last spring. This program may be particularly useful for those schools where staff is already conducting sample collection.
  1. Connect with school COVID-19 testing vendors – and use your ESSER funds to set up a testing program at your school: States and school districts received $122 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds under the American Rescue Plan Act, which may be used to arrange for testing and testing-related services alongside other important mitigation strategies. In addition to the free and low-cost options listed above from your state and the federal government, we encourage you to explore options with testing providers in your state, using your ESSER dollars. You can learn more about available providers and how to set up school-based testing programs by using the Rockefeller Foundation’s one-pager testing how-to start-up guide. An additional resource to explore test provider options and considerations is available at
  1. Partner with a community COVID-19 testing site near your school that your students and staff can use: Schools may consider referring students, teachers, and staff to community-based testing sites. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with pharmacies and retail companies to provide testing for more Americans in communities across the country. Additionally, the federal government is working with state, territory, and tribal partners to establish free, convenient testing sites in the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities. State leaders can incorporate school testing into community-based testing sites, including by locating testing sites on or near school grounds and establishing specific operating hours for schools. To learn more, visit
You can find additional reminders about how to structure testing programs in schools – like screening testing or Test to Stay – at Open and Safe Schools.
As a reminder, vaccinations continue to be our best defense to keep our students and staff safe from COVID-19. School leaders play an important role when it comes to vaccines: according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, parents are approximately twice as likely to get their child vaccinated if their school provides information about the vaccine. Students ages 5 and up are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. We encourage you to provide access to COVID-19 vaccines at schools by setting up school-located clinics. You can learn more about how to set up school-located COVID-19 vaccine clinics by visiting Letter on Covid-19 vaccination for children from Becerra and Cardona - HHS Secretary and Education Secretary.
Everyone eligible for a booster shot should also get one right away – this includes our educators and school staff. Boosters provide an improved level of protection against COVID-19. We know that vaccines remain effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. As we continue to work to stay ahead of the virus, the best thing your school staff can do right now is to get the booster shot today. Boosters and vaccines are free and readily available at more than 80,000 locations coast to coast. Your school staff can find one by visiting, texting their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233, or you can offer them to students, staff, and families through school-located vaccine clinics.
Being fully vaccinated is the best way to stay in school in person. Students, teachers, and staff who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines or had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days do not need to quarantine if they are exposed. They should wear a well-fitting mask around others and watch for symptoms for 10 days.
We’re two years into the pandemic, and we’ve come a long way, thanks to your unwavering commitment to students, school staff, and safety. The Department will continue to be a support and service agency, providing resources, advocating on your behalf, and helping schools maintain a safe environment for students and staff to be in person.
Thank you for everything you’ve done and all that you’re doing.
Miguel A. Cardona, Ed.D.
U.S. Secretary of Education
Rural Wisconsin District Featured on the CBS News Report
Rural Wisconsin District Featured on the  CBS News Report
A Big shout out to Meaghan Gustafson and LaFarge School District. See CBS News report from Jan. 11. Great job and shows the creative spirit of rural schools.
Read More
The Rural Educator
ESL Programs in Rural High Schools: Challenges and Opportunities
Todd Ruecker, University of Nevada, Reno
Rural and small-town communities in the United States have been rapidly diversifying over the last few decades and rural schools have faced challenges in supporting changing populations. This article builds on a limited body of education research that has focused on diversity in rural areas, driven largely in the U.S. by Latinx immigrant populations. This research draws on several data sources from multi-week visits in a mixture of new and established immigrant destinations to profile the challenges educational leaders faced developing ESL programs in five rural high schools and explores challenges such as how schools struggle to recruit and retain administrators and teachers, how they often have limited knowledge and resources to support curriculum development, and how program size limits schools’ ability to place students appropriately. The article concludes with suggestions for education programs, rural administrators, and state policymakers to better support English learners in rural schools.
Read More
More Than Just an Internship: One University’s Collaboration with a Rural School District to Attract, Develop, and Retain School Counselors
Rawn Boulden, West Virginia University
Christine Schimmel, West Virginia University

This promising practice describes an innovative collaboration between West Virginia University, a land grant institution situated in the middle of rural Appalachia, and Kanawha County Schools, located in Charleston, WV. The partnership aimed to assist the rural school district by supporting children in three elementary schools and by providing the university’s school counseling students an immersion experience in rural schools, with the hope of retaining them in the school district following graduation. The collaboration fulfilled the original mission of the program in two ways; first, the school district retained one-third of the school counseling students who participated. Secondly, the collaboration was met with overwhelming support by district leadership, resulting in an increase in school counseling students entering the program in the next academic year.
Read More
NREAC Call Meeting Notes—January 12, 2022
White House Announces Assistance for School Testing
The White House announced today that they will be sending 5 million tests a month to schools including both PCRs and Rapid tests. We are still waiting for more details on timing and distribution. They will also set aside space in their labs specifically for school tests to ensure results are provided quickly.
The administration will also be deploying federal support to set up testing sites in some schools and districts that are facing personnel shortages that are inhibiting the ability for testing. Also, COVID related: Today AASA released results from a survey in December on districts holding vaccine clinics. See highlights here and here

Data Collection
Civil Rights Data Collection should now be in districts’ inboxes. Additionally, there are data collections from ED regarding ESSER and Maintenance of Equity. AASA will soon be providing technical assistance and webinar opportunities for districts to better understand what is required from them for these collections.

Vaccine Mandates
Last week, the Supreme Court heard the case challenging the OSHA rule which mandates that employers with more than 100 employees must implement a vaccine mandate or require regular testing. This requirement includes districts in states that have OSHA state plans. A ruling is expected as early as tomorrow.
In a separate case challenging the Head Start vaccine mandate, a Federal Court judge temporarily blocked the measure for the 24 states that were involved in the case. As a reminder, the HS mandate requires that all students ages 2 or older are masked at all times and that all HS staff, volunteers, and contractors must be vaccinated by January 31. It is unclear whether the administration will appeal the decision. The Supreme Court’s decision on the OSHA rule will provide some insight into the court’s view of federal jurisdiction in the matter.
These 24 states were involved in the HS case and currently do not have to abide by the mandate: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, and West Virginia.

Updates (or lack thereof) from Congress
FY22 appropriations negotiations have stalled. Republicans have refused to come to the table unless Democrats agree to include a rider that includes a ban on federal funds being used for abortion. This is unusual as Congress usually agrees on numbers before discussing riders and other politically charged topics. Republicans are not interested in allocating any additional money, so continuing government funding at FY21 levels—which were established during the Trump administration—is a win for them.
The future of the Build Back Better Act is also uncertain. Last month, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he would not support the bill in its current form. Negotiations are taking place between the White House and the Senator to try to come to an agreement but a path forward is unclear.

School Bus Driver Shortage
The Dept. of Transportation and USED announced a temporary waiver that will allow states to waive the “under the hood” requirement for the CDL test. This requirement means that drivers must identify the engine components. We see this as a low-hanging fruit provision that when coupled with more long-lasting relief may hopefully address the issue. The waiver is in effect until March 31, 2022.
Concerns from the group that the waiver is not long enough to have a real impact. In Oklahoma, there is a similar requirement that drivers get underneath the buses to identify the suspension—asked whether this could also be included in the waiver. 

ARP Spending
We continue to advocate for an extension of ARP funding for school facility projects. We are looking for an extension at least to December 2026 to allow districts more time to allocate money to these projects that require a longer timeline. This is especially necessary given that Congress has not invested any funds into K-12 infrastructure.

Updates from the Department of Agriculture
USDA announced an increased reimbursement rate for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Under pandemic waivers, schools are able to receive SFSP reimbursement rates for school meals provided, which is higher than the National School Lunch Program reimbursement rates. By law, SFSP rates must be adjusted every January for inflation. This increased total an additional 25 cents per lunch meaning schools will now receive 22% more reimbursement than they would under normal conditions.
USDA also announced more details for the $1.5 billion they are providing to school meal programs to address issues caused by supply chain disruption. $1 billion will go to states then to districts as cash payments that they can use to purchase food for their programs. $300 million will be used for purchasing USDA foods. States will order foods then distribute them to districts. $200 million will go to the Local Foods for Schools Cooperative Agreements to allow states to purchase local foods and support local food chains. Here is a breakdown of how much each state will receive under each program.
Unsubscribe from this list  |  Manage my subscriptions


Powered by Glue Up
All-in-one CRM Software for Growing Communities