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Education Officials to Try Out a Flexible Days Program to Cut Down on Missed School Days

One of the perks of being a kid in the winter is the “snow day,” but a new program being introduced in Pennsylvania may make those even more coveted than they are now.

Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq has announced that a Flexible Instructional Days pilot program is now open to schools.

“What this does is it provides alternatives for schools across the commonwealth to offer anything from cyber to digital-based learning in place of students being able to physically be in the classroom,” said department spokesman Timothy Eller.

The Public School Code requires schools to offer at least 180 days, or 900 hours of instruction for grades 1-6 and 990 hours of instruction for grades 7-12. But, there are circumstances that can keep kids from getting to and from school safely.

“Whether it’s through snow days, emergency cancelations, weather-related situations, schools can use these instead of having to miss school and make up school,” said Eller.

In order to be approved for the Flexible Instruction Days program, a school must submit a summary of their program, addressing curriculum and instruction and showing how students and teachers can access technology and supports. This isn’t something a school can just decide to do the night before a big snow storm.

“The school actually has to put planning in place and create the program locally so when the time does come they can implement it smoothly,” said Eller.

The program can be online, offline or a combination of the two. If it requires online access, comparable alternatives must be made available to students who may be unable to access the lesson.

“Not every student has internet access at home, not every student has the technology that’s needed,” said Eller. “Also, there could be power outages where students couldn’t logon because of not having electric in their home to get on their devices or on the internet.”

Flexible Instruction Days will be piloted in this school year, and the cumulative number in cannot exceed five without a school getting approval from the Department of Education. And Eller said, this doesn’t mean there will be no more snow days – the option is still there for school to be canceled due to bad weather or other circumstances.

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