USDE Provides Guidance Regarding Distance Learning and FAPE (March 21, 2020)

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the US Department of Education (USDE) has released new information clarifying that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering distance learning opportunities to all students, including students with disabilities. This new resource from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) explains that as a school district takes necessary steps to address the health, safety, and well-being of all its students and staff, educators can use distance learning opportunities to serve all students.

PDE Cancels PSSA, PASA, and Keystone Tests for 2019-20 (March 19, 2020)

On the afternoon of March 19, 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, the PA Department of Education (PDE) announced the cancellation of all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year. This includes the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). Thus, PDE will be submitting the required waivers to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and no PA schools will be administering those tests this school year. At some point, PDE will be releasing information on the effects of the cancellation regarding accountability and school reporting.

OCR Releases Webinar, Fact Sheet for Protecting Students’ Rights During COVID-19 Response (March 19, 2020)

The Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) Center for Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Non-discrimination launched a short webinar on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools utilizing online learning during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In addition, OCR published a fact sheet for education leaders on how to protect students’ civil rights as school leaders take steps to keep students safe and secure. These resources will assist education leaders in making distance learning accessible to students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination during the Coronavirus response effort.

OCR Short Webinar on Online Education and Website Accessibility

Fact Sheet on Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students.

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PAPSA Cancels 42nd Annual Conference (March 16, 2020)

Due to the continued spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus and the unprecedented challenges it poses to communities across Pennsylvania and around the world, PAPSA has decided to cancel its 42nd Annual Conference, which was to be held April 1-3, 2020 in Williamsport. PAPSA’s utmost concerns, as always, are for those it serves and the decision to cancel is in keeping with the most recent guidance on the state, local, and national levels and is in the best interests of the health and safety of PAPSA’s members, sponsors, and presenters.

The cancellation of the conference is the result of PAPSA Executive Board action and there are no plans to reschedule this year’s conference. The Board has also decided that all monies are to be refunded in full to registrants and sponsors. That process will begin in the very near future.

The Board also expresses its sincere thanks to the Genetti Inn and Suites in Williamsport for their kindness during this unprecedented situation. The Genetti staff has been absolutely terrific to work with.

PAPSA also thanks all involved for their understanding, patience, and support during these difficult times and looks forward to serving them both now and in the future.

For current information about COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website at Working together, we can all help protect the health and safety of our families, friends, colleagues, communities, and ourselves.

Governor Wolf Announces Closure of Pennsylvania Schools (March 13, 2020)

Today, Friday, March 13, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf announced that all K-12 Pennsylvania schools will be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16. The administration has been working with school districts as well as state and local officials to gather input on this decision. The Wolf Administration will continue to monitor Covid-19 in the Commonwealth, and at the end of 10 days will reevaluate and decide whether continued closure is needed.

Governor Wolf made the following statement:

“We understand that these are trying times and recognize the impact of the coronavirus on our students and communities.

First and foremost, my top priority as governor – and that of our education leaders – must be to ensure the health and safety of our students and school communities.

As such, I am ordering that all schools in the commonwealth close for the next two weeks.

Be aware that no school district will be penalized if it fails to meet the 180 day or school hours requirements.

The Department of Education will work with intermediate units and other stakeholders to support school districts with any continuity of learning plans they may be pursuing.

Also, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced today that it received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow eligible schools to serve meals to low income students in a non-congregate setting, such as a drive-through or grab and go, during this closure. We will also work with schools to assist them with those plans.

We appreciate your collaboration as we work together to deal with this difficult issue.”