The outbreak of the Coronavirus has caused a great deal of uncertainty in the lives of all people across the state of Pennsylvania and the country. This has especially impacted the education system, with all schools throughout the state closing back on March 16. Originally, Governor Tom Wolf announced the schools’ closures until early April. However, the Governor recently announced his decision to keep schools shut down indefinitely.
During a press conference, Governor Wolf attributed his decision to keep the schools closed due to the need for social distancing and stay-at-home orders. As of April 5, he stated the closure will last until it is safe for students to return and added “right now it isn’t safe.”
How Can Students Continue to Learn?
Pennsylvania’s Department of Education is strongly encouraging teachers to continue to educate their students. Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera urged local school districts to do everything they can to provide students with planned instruction similar to what they would receive in the classroom.
In order to provide assistance to students during this time, the department has developed a collection of educational resources. These resources are aimed at helping schools give continued education to students, whether it may be online or through paper lessons. Any school district that does not have an online option can use two educational platforms, Odysseyware and Edgenuity, free of charge. They will be offered through local intermediate units with coursework for kindergarten through the 12th grade. In addition to this, the department is providing $5 million in grants for districts to buy equipment to be sent home to students. This can include laptops, tablets, internet hot spots, or paper materials for lessons and coursework. Districts are able to apply for these grants between April 6 and 10.
What Services are Available for Special Education?
Local Education Agencies should be making the effort to meet all federal and state-mandated timelines to continue education and provide enrichment or review activities during Coronavirus times. This includes through virtual means or teleconferences. It is important to know that IEP teams are not required to meet in person. Any evaluations that require a face-to-face assessment must wait until schools reopen. Those that do not require face-to-face assessments may take place during school closures with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
How Can Students Access Meals While School is Closed?
With the help and approval of the Federal government, schools have the option to distribute meals to children ages 18 and under at no cost while schools are closed due to Coronavirus. Districts that want to participate in this must apply to PDE. While it is not required, schools are encouraged to continue distributing and delivering meals during breaks.
What is the Requirement for Graduation?
It is important to know that PDE will not penalize any school districts that fail to meet the minimum 180-day requirement due to Coronavirus response efforts. Current seniors are still eligible to graduate at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and no student should be restricted from their graduation requirements or pursuit of a post-secondary pathway as a result of the pandemic.
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Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.