Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Bill Gives School Districts Flexibility with Snow Days Senate Measure Would Change Calculation, Allow Class on Some Saturdays

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pa. Bill Gives School Districts Flexibility with Snow Days Senate Measure Would Change Calculation, Allow Class on Some Saturdays

Article excerpt

In yet another indication of how hard winter weather hit this year, the state Senate has approved legislation that would allow school districts to measure instructional time by hours rather than days and to use Saturdays for make-up sessions for days missed due to snow and extreme cold.

The goal of the bill is to eliminate the need for districts to extend the school year into late June to make up days missed because of weather. It applies only to the current school year and is essentially a rewrite of legislation approved in 1996 after severe flooding in northwestern Pennsylvania forced the closing of schools.

The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to send Senate Bill 1281, sponsored by state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, to the House in the hopes that it will get quick approval and provide districts with options for making up days missed this year because of snow and severe weather.

"Following this very severe winter, which resulted in an unusually high number of school cancellations and delays across the state, many school districts have asked for additional flexibility to make up missed days," Mr. Corman said in a news release. "This bill would enable schools to make rescheduling decisions that are in the best interests of students and families."

The state Department of Education requires public schools, including charter schools, to provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction each school year. The Senate bill does not waive that mandate and schools can currently apply for a waiver.

Tim Eller, spokesman for the education department, said section 1504 of the Public School Code allows a district to seek approval from the department to calculate by instructional hour rather than 180 days. To do so, a district must demonstrate that it will provide 450 hours of instruction for half-day kindergarten, 900 hours for grades 1-6 and 990 hours of instruction for grades 7-12.

The school code also allows for schools to use up to three Saturdays in the 60 days leading up to graduation for graduation practice for seniors and to have these days counted as instructional days. This is an option only for the senior class. …

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