Governor Amends Gathering Limits Orders, Affecting School Events (October 11, 2020)

Governor Tom Wolf and PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine have amended existing COVID-19 orders to allow for adjusted capacity to gathering limits while keeping in place mitigation tools that include wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
As of Friday, October 9th, amended orders now allow for venue occupancy limits to play a bigger role in determining the number of people permitted both inside and outside of events or gatherings.

The amended orders define an event or gathering as a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes that takes place over a limited time frame. This would pertain to school sports and other similar school-sponsored events. The order also clarifies that groups of people who share a space within a building in the ordinary course of operations, such as in a classroom, office building, or similar regularly occurring operation of a business or organization, are not considered events or gatherings.


To view the governor’s amended order that contains the maximum occupancy allowable rates for indoor and outdoor events, click here.
To view an updated FAQs on the PA Health Department website, which contains questions specific to schools and school sports, click here .

PDE Disseminates Suicide Prevention Materials (October 6, 2020)

Following the recognition of September as National Suicide Prevention Month, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and its partners are highlighting several resources to support school communities in their youth suicide prevention efforts.  All of the below resources may be accessed through the Prevent Suicide PA website at https://www.preventsuicidepa.org/.

 For additional resources to support your school-based suicide prevention efforts, visit PDE’s Act 71 page and Prevent Suicide PA’s Act 71 page.

PDE Announces Free Mikayla’s Voice Program Opportunities (October 5, 2020)

On October 9, 2020, BSE Director Carole L. Clancy, released a PennLink memo to all LEAs titled 2020-21 Inclusive Programming Opportunities through Mikayla’s Voice announcing inclusive programming for the 2020-21 school year. When schools closed in March, Mikayla’s Voice reinvented each of their programs to allow remote delivery. Their inclusion books, assemblies, art projects, and new enrichment website can now be accessed from individual classrooms or homes. Free programs listed below are available for schools and will be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Inclusion Assemblies: Until large group activities may resume, Mikayla’s Voice is well-prepared to remotely facilitate valuable discussion about inclusion and demonstrate children’s capacity for understanding, acceptance, and compassion. Virtual presentations will include all the elements of live assemblies. The remote assembly includes short video segments to enhance viewer experience, video and audio equipment, and an educational video conferencing platform to allow inclusion assemblies to be safe and effectively live streamed to as many as 500 classrooms or homes. Presenters will be joined by a student or young adult with a disability and share the book Our Friend Mikayla. Students can use live chat to ask any and all questions and will be invited to serve as Mikayla’s Voice in their school and community.

Wheels of Friendship®:  In a unique program developed and coordinated by Mikayla’s Voice, children paint not with brushes, but with the wheels of a wheelchair (or walker) and the paws (and tail) of a service dog.  Having started with a focus on the inclusion of people with physical disabilities, the program has expanded to represent additional disabilities. In this program, Mikayla’s Voice supplies 24 individual art “kits,” and facilitates a live virtual group art lesson. A video tutorial link is also provided so instruction can be revisited, if necessary. Finally, written directions, including photos, make it possible for students without computer or internet access to participate as well.

Mikayla’s Bookshelf: This is a newly created, enrichment website providing lessons for teachers and schools to introduce or reinforce Mikayla’s Voice message and mission with their students. Mikayla’s Bookshelf includes all three of their books in a fun, page turning electronic format, so they may be shared in every classroom or home, as needed. To ensure equity for all, books can be sent home for students who do not have adapted technology to access a website, and all three are available as braille copies. These books are the foundation for enrichment lessons related to the themes of inclusion, kindness, and friendship, each aligned to PA state standards, and addressing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies. They include Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies, with direct links to supplemental support information such as: text to speech, speech to text, word banks, passive assistance, and hand under hand, with further technical assistance if required. All lessons and supports are available in printable .pdf versions so teachers may share with families who might not have computer and/or internet access.

 Participating schools are asked to help with pre and post data collection to measure the global quality of the programs and their ability to improve school culture and community.  Mikayla’s Voice has partnered with researchers at Lehigh University as part of our ongoing program assessment for improvement and replication.

 Interested schools can contact Rita Cheskiewicz, Executive Director at 570-690-7113 or rita@mikaylasvoice.org or Kimberly Resh, Program Director, at 610-746-2324 or kim@mikaylasvoice.org to participate in Mikayla’s Voice programming. 

 Mikayla’s Voice website can be found at www.mikaylasvoice.org.

Gov. Wolf Vetoes HB 2787 Re School Fall Activities (September 24, 2020)

Earlier this week, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 2787, which would have mandated that school fall activities be under the sole jurisdiction of local school districts. The governor considered the bill to be superfluous given that local school governing bodies already have authority, but it would restrict state and local officials’ ability to respond to health concerns and potential outbreaks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Click here to access Governor Wolf’s HB 2787 veto message.

BSE Releases 2020-21 Gifted Ed. Compliance Monitoring Schedule (September 17, 2020)

On September 16, 2020, Carole L. Clancy, Director  of the PDE Bureau of Special Education (BSE) sent a PennLink memo to all LEAs titled 2020-21 Gifted Compliance Monitoring Schedule. The contents of that memo are below.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has the responsibility to ensure that all school districts providing gifted education, whether directly or by contractual arrangements, administer gifted education services and programs that are in compliance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations. To fulfill this responsibility, PDE has established administrative procedures for monitoring program implementation, including evaluating the appropriateness, effectiveness, and accountability of gifted education services and programs.

PDE has developed the schedule for compliance monitoring for the 2020-21 school year, in which 10 school districts of varying sizes across the Commonwealth will be monitored. Additional monitoring, if deemed appropriate, may be designated as the school year progresses.

The Gifted Cyclical Monitoring for Continuous Improvement includes a Gifted Facilitated Self-Assessment (GFSA) completed by each school district and a virtual review by a PDE team, which may include peers who will conduct teacher/parent interviews. The process includes a review of the GFSA submitted by the school district; input from administrators, teachers, and parents; and verification activities of the information reported in the GFSA. Verification activities include file reviews of student documents, studies of service delivery, and analysis of policies, procedures, and outcomes.

School districts to be monitored will be scheduled for virtual training and a recorded presentation will be available. The training will review the virtual monitoring process, documents, and GFSA submission, and provide suggestions and checklists regarding preparation and implementation of the monitoring process. The Gifted Monitoring Manual is located on the PA Gifted web page.  School districts are strongly encouraged to review this document to prepare for the monitoring.

Questions regarding the 2020-21 monitoring schedule should be directed to Shirley Moyer, Special Education Adviser-Gifted at, 717-705-5186 or shirmoyer@pa.gov.