PDE Releases Contingency Funds for Extraordinary Expenses Memo (October 3, 2021)

On October 1, 2021, PDE Bureau of Special Education Director Carole L. Clancy disseminated  PennLink message to local educational agencies (LEAs) titled Contingency Funds for Extraordinary Expenses. The memo states that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will begin accepting applications for the Special Education Contingency Funds for Extraordinary Expenses on November 22, 2021. 

The fund’s purpose is to provide additional state funding for the implementation of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a student with significant disabilities. Interested LEAs will have until January 07, 2022, to apply.

The application and review process for the 2021-2022 school year is specified in the Contingency Funds Guidelines.  Applications for the Special Education Contingency Funds must be submitted electronically through the contingency funds request system website at https://apps.leaderservices.com/cfunds.  LEAs that have not previously used the system may request a password from Leader Services by emailing cfunds@leaderservices.com.  Once the LEA’s address is verified, a password will be issued, along with the information regarding the primary account.

Questions regarding Special Education Contingency Funds for Extraordinary Expenses should be directed to Janette Fulton, Special Education Adviser, Division of Analysis and Financial Reporting, at 717.425.5442 or janfulton@pa.gov

State Officials Provide Update On Strategy To Protect In-Person Instruction At Schools (September 30, 2021)

On September 30, 2021, continuing to prioritize in-person instruction for K-12 students in Pennsylvania, the departments of Education, Health and Transportation discussed the state’s strategy to address a shortage of school bus drivers, and provided updates on the anticipated rollout of the vaccine for those age 5-11, and COVID testing in schools.

“Across Pennsylvania, students are excited to be back in the classroom, learning and growing and playing alongside their classmates,” said Education Secretary Dr. Noe Ortega. “Our schools and students are resilient, and under the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic, this has been a good start to the school year. I thank the students, parents and communities for working together and finding creative solutions so students can remain in the classroom, where it’s vital for them to be.”

Hiring more school bus drivers

The nationwide shortage of school bus drivers is affecting many school districts in Pennsylvania. To address the need, school districts can use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to reimburse parents or guardians to safely transport their students to and from in-person school.

PennDOT is reaching out to approximately 375,000 drivers with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in the state about the immediate need for drivers and how to get the correct endorsements for a school bus license. 

PennDOT will also temporarily expand its days of operation to offer CDL skills testing at 23 locations throughout the state to include Mondays for four weeks beginning October 18. The additional day will make the process more convenient for potential drivers to complete the process faster. To schedule a CDL skills test, either visit the Driver and Vehicle Services website or call 717-412-5300. Additionally, certain third-party businesses are certified by PennDOT to administer the road test for a market-driven fee.

“PennDOT is committed to ensuring safe transportation for students,” Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Kurt Myers said. “We urge CDL licensees who are seeking work or supplemental employment to obtain a school bus endorsement – taking advantage of the additional hours for CDL testing – to help transport students safely.” 

For anyone wishing to become a bus driver, the first step is obtaining initial issuance of a CDL. Anyone 18 years or older may obtain the School Bus and Passenger endorsements on a CDL to obtain a school bus license. For a list of steps and forms to obtain a CDL and the school bus endorsement, please visit the Driver and Vehicle Services website under School Bus Drivers.

Vaccine in children ages 5 to 11

Currently, students 12 and older are eligible and encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This week, Pfizer submitted its application to the federal government for approval to administer vaccine to children between 5 and 11 years old. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) review and approval process is anticipated to take several weeks, school districts are encouraged to contact local vaccine providers to schedule on-site vaccination clinics.

“It’s very encouraging that more than half-a-million school-aged kids are already vaccinated,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “We know that vaccinations are one of the best ways to prevent illness due to COVID-19 and help keep students learning in-person. That’s why we encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated and we encourage schools to help make it as convenient as possible. It’s not too early to schedule a vaccine clinic in November in anticipation of federal approval for kids between 5 and 11.”

For eligible adolescents in Pennsylvania, 21.9 percent of children ages 12-14 are fully vaccinated and 42.6 percent of children ages 15-19 are fully vaccinated.

“The vaccination numbers continue to increase,” Beam said noting that vaccine providers must be connecting with schools as suggested last month. “In the past week, DOH has helped to connect a school in Erie and one in Pittsburgh to vaccine providers in the region.”

Last month, an order by the Acting Secretary of Health directed vaccine providers to coordinate vaccine clinics with schools for the employees, contractors, volunteers, students, or students’ families of the school. The clinics can be held at the school or a location agreed upon by the school and vaccine provider. If a provider is unable to coordinate a vaccination clinic with the school, the provider is responsible for directing the school to the Department of Health to be provided with contact information for other vaccine providers.

K-12 classroom testing program

There are 396 schools using the 100-percent federally-funded COVID-19 testing program the Wolf Administration launched for the start of this school year to provide safer in-person environments for students, teachers and staff. The pooled testing program is part of a larger strategy that schools are using including vaccination, physical distancing, facilities improvements, masks/face coverings, and hand hygiene to reduce the spread of the virus and keep students learning in classrooms.

“In the past week, more than 800 tests have been conducted in schools across the state through this free initiative,” Beam said. “The combination of on-going testing, masking and vaccinations will help keep students learning in the classroom.”

Schools can opt-in to participate in the free COVID-19 testing program at any time. The Department of Health is encouraging all schools to take advantage of this free testing program.

Early detection of COVID-19 cases in schools can help school officials take action that will help keep schools open and students in classrooms and participating in extracurricular activities. A key part of the testing program is the quick turnaround time for testing results, which is one to two days after testing. This allows schools to quickly identify if they have positive cases and to take action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the school and mitigate a possible school shutdown.

To support schools in the event a student tests positive for COVID-19, visit PDE’s website to access information on responding to COVID-19 cases in schools.

CDC Reiterates School Quarantine Guidance as States and Districts Shorten Requirements (September 30, 2021)

On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its quarantine guidance for K-12 schools. The CDC has reiterated its recommendations  due to a number of states and school districts that have shortened the length of periods of quarantine. CDC asserts that those unvaccinated who come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should immediately quarantine for 14 days unless instructed otherwise by a school official.

The CDC also advises that vaccinated individuals who are close contacts of people diagnosed with COVID-19 don’t need to quarantine, but they should be tested 3-5 days following known exposure and continue to wear a mask indoors for the following 14 days.

According to K-12 Dive, the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which is keeping track of COVID-19 responses in the nation’s 100 largest school systems, many school districts across the country have shortened quarantine periods and clarified protocols since the start of the school year.

For quarantine guidelines from the CDC, click here.

Sources: K-12 Dive and the CDC.

CDC Studies Show Masks Help Keep Students Safe from COVID-19 (September 26, 2021)

According to USA Today, two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies released on September 24, 2021 found that COVID-19 outbreaks and pediatric cases were more common when schools did not mandate masks.

One study of about 1,000 schools in two Arizona counties showed schools without mask mandates were 3.5 times more likely to have outbreaks than schools that started the year with a mask mandate. Another study of hundreds of U.S. counties found an increased rate of pediatric COVID-19 cases in areas where schools didn’t have mask mandates.

The findings support the assertion that: masks provide instantaneous protection from infection and, in combination with other prevention strategies, including vaccination, are critical in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

A third study revealed that, thus far this school year, COVID-19 Outbreaks have resulted in nearly 2,000 school closures.

For more from USA Today, click here.

NAPSA’s 55th Annual Conference:   “Administering Pupil Services with a Focus on Trauma, Resiliency, and Support

As NAPSA returns to the conference circuit with its 55th Annual Conference, in the interest of safety and to make it convenient for all to attend, the NAPSA Executive Board has decided to hold this year’s conference by virtual means only on October 25-26, 2021. Since the vast majority of  those wishing to attend have been recently inundated with issues related to the  surge in the COVID-19 Delta variant, in addition to streaming the conference live NAPSA will also provide a recording of the conference in its entirety for all registrants.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Administering Pupil Services with a Focus on Trauma, Resiliency, and Support.”  Sessions offered will feature resiliency, trauma-informed care and behavior strategies, restorative practices, mentorship, and legal issues relating to pupil services.

Our distinguished lineup of speakers will include:

  • Christian Moore – WhyTry Founder, internationally acclaimed author of The Resilience Breakthrough, licensed clinical social worker, and advocate for at-risk youth. Christian will provide a keynote presentation titled “Resilience Can Be Taught: Four Strategies to Build Resilience.”
  • Dr. Mary Margaret Kerr – Professor, University of Pittsburgh;  STAR-Center for Youth Suicide and Violence Prevention; author, of School Crisis Prevention and Intervention; and leader of an internationally recognized research team, which includes youth as researchers. Dr. Kerr will provide a keynote presentation on “Trauma-informed Practices.”
  • Dyane Lewis Carrere, M.Ed. – Renowned author, educational consultant, and developer of the Re-Set Process™ and Re-Set Room™. Dyane will provide a two-part series of presentations on Monday and Tuesday titled “Trauma-Informed Behavior Strategies Part 1 – The Science of Trauma, Definitions, and Critical Background Knowledge” and “Trauma-Informed Behavior Strategies Part 2 – Implementation Strategies.”
  • Ira Weiss, Esq. – Founder, Weiss Burkardt Kramer LLC; nationally known public sector legal authority; named a “Pennsylvania Super Lawyer” each year from 2005 to the present in the fields of schools and education. Attorney Weiss will present “Legal Issues Related to Pupil Services.”
  • Donna J. Mazyck, RN, MS, NCSN, NCC – Executive Director of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). Donna will present “The School Nurse and  Student Trauma.” This is an extremely pressing topic as the virus continues to surge.
  • Dr. Mark Lepore – Professor, Clarion University Counseling, Human Services, Rehabilitation & CRJ; 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award by The National Society of Leadership and Success. Dr. Lepore will present on “Resiliency and Pupil Services.”
  • Dr. Tracy Collins Boyle and Marissa Taddonio –  internationally known presenters who will team up for a presentation on “The Trauma-Informed Instructor.”
  • Dr. A. Malynda Maurer – CPDLF Executive Director and the Director of Innovation, Incubation, and Development of the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8. Dr. Maurer will present on “Mentoring for Life.”
  • Jeanne M. Knouse – PAPSA Secretary and SCASD Director of Student Services.  A highly acclaimed presenter, Jeanne will present on “Using Restorative Practices to Process Traumatic Events.”

For more information on the conference and to view the conference brochure, click here.

To see the conference agenda and to register for the conference, click here