State auditors critique DPI's guidance for reopening public schools

The Brillion News

MADISON – The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released its review of the best practices guidance for transitioning from virtual instruction to in-person instruction.

The review was made public on Friday, August 21, a few days after the state Department of Public Instruction released its 36-page directive on reopening schools.

To complete its review, LAB independently identified best practices by reviewing more than 65 documents from international, federal, and state entities, as well as other organizations.

Although DPI’s guidance contained almost all of the best practices LAB independently identified, LAB found DPI’s guidance did not include two best practices.

LAB also found that DPI’s guidance relied on information that the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) had developed for extracurricular activities, but this information did not address certain types of extracurricular activities not overseen by WIAA.

“I appreciate the work of the Legislative Audit Bureau in identifying and compiling best practices from many sources against which the DPI guidance to school districts can be compared,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem Lakes, co-chair of the Llegislature's Joint Commiuttee on the Audit. “It is reassuring to have an independent check of DPI’s work in this area, and to see what needs to be corrected.”

LAB recommended that DPI update its guidance to advise school districts and schools to review and potentially revise staff contracts and employment documents to reflect virtual instruction and flexible leave time policies, advise them to determine the level of staff and student absenteeism that will disrupt teaching and learning, and provide them with guidance on offering extracurricular activities that are not overseen by WIAA.

LAB recommends DPI report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee by September 30, 2020, on the status of its efforts to implement LAB’s recommendations.

“It’s my hope that DPI includes LAB’s recommendations into their guidance document and that School Districts utilize and implement these best practices to provide a healthy and safe school year,” said Senator Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, the committee's other co-chair. Copies of LAB’s report (report 20-8) may be obtained from its website at www.legis.wisconsin.gov/lab or by calling 608-266-2818. Report concerns related to state government activities to LAB by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-FRAUD-17.


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