2020-21 Healthy Champions Program Enrollment is Now Open (April 9, 2020)

The Healthy Champions program enrollment for 2020-21 is now open. Healthy Champions is a free initiative that assists school health leaders with fostering an environment that supports children’s health and well-being. Penn State PRO Wellness, in partnership with the Highmark Foundation and the Hershey Bears® Hockey Club, provides enrolled schools, also known as ‘Champions,’ with FREE health education materials at the beginning of the school year. Champions are encouraged to use these materials and additional resources, which can be found in the password protected portal, to host signature events and to help teach youth and their families how to bring healthier choices to life.

For more information, please click here.

Governor Wolf Extends School Closure for Remainder of Academic Year (April 9, 2020)

Secretary of Education Implements State-Level Waivers to Ensure Continuity and Flexibility

Continuing his efforts to protect the health and safety of students and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf has announced that all schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. The governor made the decision in consultation with Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. Students and families can continue to pick up meals at designated sites.

Although schools are closed, teaching and learning may continue. Schools are strongly encouraged to provide continuity of education for all students in the most appropriate and accessible ways possible. PDE has secured resources intended to help all schools that want to use them – including those not currently offering online platforms, those requiring additional technology support, and those that may rely on traditional methods, such as paper lessons, to continue educating students. There is no cost to schools or students for these resources.

Schools will remain closed though the end of the 2019-2020 academic year as it is defined by the local school calendar.

The decision applies to all public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers and intermediate units. All PDE early learning program classrooms, including those for Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program (HSSAP) and Preschool Early Intervention, will also remain closed.

Secretary Rivera said the administration’s primary consideration has always been to make the best decision in the context of student and community health and safety and stated that the “action to close schools for the remainder of the academic year provides school communities with predictability and understanding of the conditions under which they’ll be operating and serving students. As schools and communities adapt to the prolonged school closure, PDE will continue to work with our state, educational, and business and nonprofit partners to meet the needs of students.”

Colleges and universities may not resume in-person instruction or reopen their physical locations until the governor permits them to open or lifts the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses.

Under the state’s directive, schools could begin summer programming on the day after their academic year ends.

Secretary Rivera added that all re-openings will be contingent on public health guidance provided by the Secretary of Health and stay-at-home orders issued by the governor.

In addition to the school closure announcement, through his order Secretary Rivera also took action that will ensure crucial stability of education programs. Under Act 13 of 2020, the secretary has exercised his executive authority to adjust requirements for the evaluation of professional employees and waive student teaching requirements that may not be possible in the context of school closures.

PDE has been providing ongoing guidance to school communities in the form of FAQs. The guidance information is available at education.pa.gov/COVID19.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Authorizes New Funding Flexibilities to Support Continued Learning During COVID-19 National Emergency (April 7, 2020)

On Monday, April 6th, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a new streamlined process for providing states funding flexibilities to best meet the needs of students and educators during the COVID-19 national emergency. The new flexibilities, authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning, among other flexibilities to move resources to areas of highest need during the national emergency. 

Any state may complete a brief form available at oese.ed.gov, and it will receive an initial determination within one business day. Using the form, states can receive flexibility in the use of funds and other requirements covered under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), including the Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V programs. Specifically, states may request a waiver of:

  • Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA to waive the 15% carryover limitation for Title I, Part A funds;
  • Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of prior fiscal year funds, for Title I, Parts A-D, Title II, Title III, Part A, Title IV, Parts A-B, and Title V, Part B programs, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Children and Youth program;
  • Section 4106(d) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive a needs assessment to justify the use of funds;
  • Section 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive content-specific spending requirements;
  • Section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A of the ESEA to waive spending restrictions on technology infrastructure; and
  • Section 8101(42) of the ESEA to waive the definition of “professional development,” which might otherwise limit the ability to quickly train school leaders and teachers on topics like effective distance learning techniques.

This action follows USDE’s earlier announcement of a turnkey waiver process allowing states to cancel federally-mandated standardized testing, in response to widespread school closures in the wake of the declaration of a national emergency. Since that announcement, Secretary DeVos has approved waivers for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It further builds on the Department’s actions to support states and local education leaders since the outbreak of COVID-19, including guidance on ensuring students with disabilities have access to distance learning opportunities and providing an extension for states that need additional time to develop career and technical education plans under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V).

To learn more on this topic, please read the press release by clicking here.

PDE Provides $5 Million for Equity Grants for Schools to Purchase Computer Equipment (April 2, 2020)

The PA Department of Education (PDE) has allocated up to $5 million dollars in state funding for equity grants for schools to purchase computer equipment, such as laptops, tablets, and internet hot spots, or to use towards providing instructional materials, such as paper lessons and coursework.

PDE will also allocate new federal monies to these grants as the federal appropriations become available.

Schools with the highest percentages of students lacking access to resources will be given priority in receiving these grants.

Grant applications will be available on April 6 and must be submitted through PDE’s eGrants system by April 10. For more information, please click here.

PDE Provides Resources for Schools (April 1, 2020)

With the extended statewide school closures, school districts are planning to provide continuity of education for all students. However, not all schools and families have the resources to provide or access quality continuity of education activities.

To help ensure Pre-K through grade 12 students in Pennsylvania have access to equitable, personalized, applied, and engaging continuity of education programs, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is partnering with organizations across the state to develop and offer a collection of resources and supports for schools and school  communities.

Aligned to PA standards, these resources increase access to continuity of education activities for all learners through diverse platforms that include the internet, television, radio, and printed learning toolkits.

There is no cost to schools to use these resources. Schools should contact their local intermediate unit if they wish to subscribe to the platforms.

Learn more about these resources by clicking here.