Shaler Area school board OKs district’s use of flexible instructional days

Thursday, August 22, 2019 | 12:01 AM


Shaler Area School District students may have to complete home-based assignments on snow days, thanks to the school board’s Aug. 21 decision to permit the district’s application and participation in the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s flexible instructional day (FID) program.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law this summer allowing public school teachers to assign online and/or offline learning when schools are closed due to hazardous weather, damage to a school building, inoperability of equipment necessary for its operation or other reasons.

“We bill snow days into our calendar. They typically wrap around spring break. What these five days will allow us to do is allocate these days as flexible instructional days where students would have to complete work at home, turn it in, be graded and assessed on it. But they would in turn not have to make the snow day up,” Assistant Superintendent Bryan O’Black said.

FID may not exceed five days per school year, and districts still must achieve 180 instructional days.

The board vote was 8-0, with Director Suzanna Donahue absent.

Schools electing to participate in the program must apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Shaler Area will learn by Nov. 1 whether the department is granted FID approval for three-year program participation, starting with the 2019-20 school year.

Director April Kwiatkowski asked whether the district needs to request approval when using each FID. O’Black said that step is unnecessary.

Resident Dorothy Petrancosta has relatives in the Seneca Valley School District, which participated in the state’s FID pilot program.

“I am thrilled to see this going forward, but I also know that their percentage of technology and access to internet and what they’ve done in that district is just very different from what I understand ours to be, and if they aren’t going out because the weather’s bad, they’re not running to the library to do it, either,” she said.

O’Black responded: “Seneca Valley’s policy allows students to have 10 days from the day of the FID day, so if the students don’t have access to technology to complete the assignments at home, they have 10 instructional days to complete the assignment or they are considered absent.”

“Are you considering, like, that 10-day window, or something similar to that in our contract?” Kwiatkowski asked.

O’Black said the application would indeed propose a 10-day window for students to complete assignments. He noted that the district provides seventh- through 12th-graders technology devices through its Project ACE 1:1 iPad Initiative.

“I don’t have the numbers, but the majority of our students K-6 in the district do have access to some technology. But we don’t want to make the assumption that on any given day that they have it, and that’s why we’re proposing that 10-day window before that FID day would turn into an absence because that student technically did not attend school or complete the assignment.”