COVID-19 Update: What Episcopal Schools Need to Know

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Here are some updated resources and communications from NAES concerning the outbreak of COVID-19.

Reopening  Guidance for Schools

Communities, Schools, Workplaces, and Events: Information for Where You Live, Work, Learn, and Play
Information from the CDC to help stay healthy as your school reopens. (Centers for Disease Control)

Beyond the Curve: Post-Pandemic Back-To-Business FAQs For Employers
A comprehensive look at the various legal aspects of returning to in-person education, post COVID-19. (Fisher and Phillips)

Global Online Academy (GOA) works with bricks-and-mortar independent schools in the US and across the globe on effective online learning. They have developed extensive resources and research related to distance learning during pandemic-related school closures, including the results of a survey of over 80 independent schools.

COVID-19 School Continuity Resources
Concrete tools and resources for distance and hybrid learning from One Schoolhouse.

NPR: 9 Ways Schools Will Look Different When (And If) They Reopen
This report from National Public Radio offers a broad overview of ways schools may change after re-opening.

Overview of COVID-19 Legislation

Congress has approved a variety of financial relief options to support educational institutions. There are two major pieces of federal legislation relevant to Episcopal schools:

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)  

The Families First legislation provides emergency unemployment benefits, sick leave, and family leave for those affected by COVID-19. These benefits are available to many categories of employees that previously may not have qualified. All employers must comply with the act. Unlike the normal Family Medical Leave Act, employers with fewer than 50 employees are not exempt (waivers may only be granted by the Department of Labor). Employers are required to inform their employees of these expanded benefits; a poster from the Department of Labor for that purpose is included in the links below.

The Act also has provisions for fully refundable tax credits to employers, to cover a portion of the paid period of time during which employees are unable to work.


The CARES Act authorizes direct cash relief to employers with fewer than 500 employees. Non-profits, including Churches and church-related schools, are eligible. There are four major forms of such relief:

  • deferred payment of required payroll taxes;
  • potentially forgivable loans through the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP);
  • other non-forgivable small business loans;
  • and/or employee retention credits.

Each of these forms of relief have complex rules and requirements which may or may not make them actionable for your school. NAES urges Episcopal schools to work with their auditor, HR professional, or qualified attorney and the school’s board to explore which, if any, provisions of the CARES Act are appropriate to pursue on behalf of your institution or employees.

Emergency Relief Grants for Public and Non-Public Schools

Two new major grant programs for schools were created  as part of the CARES Act. Guidelines for the request and use of those funds have now been issued. Equitable participation of non-public schools is part of these guidelines. Importantly, receipt of these grant monies does not constitute acceptance of federal assistance:

  • Section 18002 Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER)
    $3 billion for governors to provide emergency support to schools most impacted by coronavirus.
  • Section 18003 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER)
    $13.5 billion in grants to states for K-12 schools to use in the twelve specific ways described in the legislation.

The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) has provided a detailed explanation of each program. Click here to learn more.

PPP Program Update

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of June 5, 2020 outlines substantial changes to the Paycheck Protection Program such as:

  • Extending the time that businesses have to spend PPP loan funds.
  • Altering the forgiveness rules, including a reduction in the percentage of the loans that must be used for payroll purposes.

Resource: Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act Provides Employers With More Options – Fisher & Phillips, LLP

Other Resources

COVID-19 Resource Center – Fisher & Phillips, LLP
Provides guidance and legal alerts for employers related to COVID-19, including recent federal legislation.

NAIS: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Schools
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is providing regular, comprehensive updates for schools. NAIS membership is not required. Bookmark and follow this page!

Here’s What’s Included for Child Care in the Congressional COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Package
A summary from First Five Years Fund on the ramifications for child care in the new legislation.

Congressional Response to COVID-19 – CAPE
A downloadable PDF from the Council for American Private Education.

COVID-19 Changes to Policies and Benefits Provided by Church Pension Group (CPG)

If your school provides employee medical benefits through Church Medical Trust, and/or disability insurance or property and casualty insurance through the Church Insurance Group, the following changes are important to note. Contact CPG for more information. Many thanks to the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego for this information.

Waiver of Medical Expenses for COVID-19

On Monday, March 23, 2020, CPG announced that it would waive co-pays, deductibles, and reinsurance for COVID-19 treatment.

Deferral of Payment of Insurance Premiums

On Friday, March 27, 2020, CPG announced that until June 30, 2020, it would not be cancelling any group benefits, property & casualty insurance coverages, or charging interest for failure to make timely payments.

Institutions that can afford to make full or partial payments for pension assessments, health benefits (including individuals on extensions of benefits), property & casualty coverage, life insurance, and disability policies offered through a Church Pension Group company should continue to do so, but CPG is temporarily implementing a 90-day hardship grace period for those who cannot make timely payments.

Familiarize Yourself with what Local Schools are Doing

  • Your independent school accrediting agency
    Many state and regional independent school associations are serving as clearinghouses for school planning and response.
  • Your local public school district
    Partner with your local public school district on any proposed or planned school responses and policies.
  • Your Episcopal Diocese
    Many Episcopal dioceses have issued guidelines for congregations and other affiliated organizations.

A Message from the NAES Executive Director:

As Episcopal schools, we are at our best when we are caring for each other, be it directly or—in these emergency times—at a distance. Our care is based on God’s care for us, as our upcoming Biennial Conference theme (John 15:12) reminds us.

Over the past days our schools have demonstrated extraordinary care, through thorough planning and regular communication, pastoral outreach, and teachers adjusting to different modes of teaching and learning—all within the context of rapidly unfolding events and heightened uncertainty.

It is hard to know what we will be experiencing in the upcoming weeks, but our hope in God’s call to us remains unchanged. The staff at NAES continues to be committed to serving those who serve Episcopal schools in whatever fashion we can, including our prayers for those most vulnerable during this global crisis.

The Rev. Daniel R. Heischman, D.D.
Executive Director