On July 6, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) issued new guidance addressing instructional time obligations under the law, providing flexibility for schools to meet the 180-day, 900/990-hour requirements while using remote learning during the 2020-21 school year. According to PDE, Section 520.1 of the School Code authorizes the implementation of temporary operations by school districts during times of certain emergency. PDE considers the COVID-19 pandemic such an emergency. Section 520.1 states that, during times of emergency when a school district may be unable to provide for the attendance of all pupils or usual hours of classes, the school board may, with the approval of the secretary of education, put into operation temporary provisions. The temporary provisions may remain in effect for up to four years. In addition, the board may decide the days and number of days per week to operate and may reduce the length of time of daily instruction for various courses and classes.
A school district that chooses to operate under a temporary operating plan will not lose state subsidies.
Any school entity that enacts temporary provisions provided in Section 520.1 must submit the following to the secretary of education for approval:
- Board meeting minutes demonstrating approval of the temporary provisions.
- The temporary provisions adopted, including the district’s proposed calendar and academic schedule.
The information shall be submitted with or as an amended component of the school entity’s Health and Safety Plan at RA-EDContinuityofED@pa.gov.
PDE reminds school districts that instruction time for students must be under the direction of certified school employees in synchronous or asynchronous formats delivered either in the classroom or remotely unless otherwise permitted.