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​COVID-19 Answers to Common Questions

Information for school communities during the 2020-21 academic year will be updated on this page as it's made available - please check back frequently. Access information made available to school communities during the 2019-20 academic year.

Topics: CARES Act | Child Accounting Reporting | Child Care | Contact Tracing* | Continuing Professional Education | Data Collections | Early Intervention | Educator Preparation Programs | Fingerprinting | Flexible Instructional Days (FIDs) | Food Service Costs | Future Ready PA Index | Immunizations | LEA Subsidy Payments | Masks/Face Coverings Order | Meals for Children | Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program | School Construction | Special Education Services | Targeted Mitigation Order | Transportation

This page was updated on August 4, 2020. Updates are marked with an asterisk (*).

Child Accounting Reporting

Can LEAs continue to submit Act 80 requests for the 2019-20 school year?

Yes. If an LEA included Act 80 days in its board-approved calendar, it may continue to submit Act 80 requests through PDE's online Act 80 Exception System. The submission of Act 80 days for 2019-20 will not impact an LEA's number of instructional days or the calculated days in session. However, if an LEA has a need for this option, such as addressing requirements in teacher contracts, it is available.

How should LEAs report the School Calendar template's instructional day fields for the 2019-20 school year?

Because child accounting membership will only be collected for the period of July 1, 2019 through the announcement of statewide school closures on March 13, 2020, and to simplify the reporting process, the instructional day fields should be reported as follows:

  • Number of Scheduled School Days (field #14) = actual number of student instructional days (do not include full day Act 80 days in this field)
  • Total Days in Session Lost Due to Strike (field #16) = 0
  • Total Days in Session Lost Due to Act 80 (field #17) = 0
  • Total Days in Session Lost Due to Other (field #18) = 0
  • Total Make-Up Days (field #19) = 0

How should LEAs report the Instruction End Date (field #12) on the School Calendar template?

If the LEA was in session on March 13, then the Instruction End Date (field #12) should be March 13, 2020.

If the LEA was not in session on March 13, then the Instruction End Date should be the last instructional day held prior to March 13.

If only one or a subset of the LEA's school buildings were closed prior to March 13, those buildings must be reported on a separate calendar(s) to ensure that Average Daily Attendance and Average Daily Membership (ADM)are calculated correctly.

How should LEAs report membership and attendance on the Student Calendar Fact template?

Days Enrolled (field #8) should be the sum of the days present and days absent when school was in session from July 1, 2019 to March 13, 2020.  This number cannot exceed the number reported in field #14 (Number of Scheduled School Days) of the School Calendar template.

Days Present (field #9) should be the number of days present when school was in session from July 1, 2019 to March 13, 2020.

Days Absent-Unexcused (field #16) should be the number of unexcused absences based on local attendance policy when school was in session from July 1, 2019 to March 13, 2020.

How does PDE's action on additional Flexible Instructional Days (FIDs) for the 2019-20 school year impact an LEA's PIMS-Child Accounting data submission?

The child accounting attendance and membership reporting period for the 2019-20 school year is from July 1, 2019 through March 13, 2020. Therefore, the utilization of FIDs beyond March 13, 2020 has no impact on an LEA's child accounting submission.

However, any approved FIDs for days up to and including March 13 should be reflected in an LEA's 2019-20 school year child accounting data submission.

Will PDE grant any flexibility in how Accuracy Certification Statements (ACS) are submitted?

Yes. LEAs must provide an ACS to complete the PIMS-Child Accounting data submission.

However, if an LEA's Chief School Administrator does not have access to the equipment necessary to sign and scan the document, they may use an electronic signature option available via Adobe Fill and Sign. If an LEA chooses the latter method, only the Chief School Administrator may email the completed document to PDE.

How will Act 13's waiving of the 180-day requirement impact the 2019-20 school year ADM calculation?

ADM is calculated by dividing the number of days a student was enrolled by the school district's days in session. Because all LEAs are reporting child accounting membership as of March 13, 2020, a school district's days in session will automatically be reduced to be proportional to the reported days enrolled. This calculation will not negatively impact state subsidies that use ADM.

Should LEAs continue to send form PDE-4605 (Determination of District of Residence for Students in Facilities or Institutions)?

Yes. The educating LEA should continue to determine the school district of residence for students in placements and send the PDE 4605 to the identified school district of residence.

Who is responsible for the tuition of a student in a placement on or after March 13, 2020?

The cost for a student's tuition will remain with the LEA responsible for payment as of March 13, 2020.

How will an LEA determine a daily rate for services? Do LEAs need to adjust invoices that were sent for education provided prior to March 13, 2020?

An LEA that calculates a daily tuition rate, based on an annual tuition rate, should use the days in session on the original calendar (2019-20 school year) that was in place prior to the COVID-19 response efforts (i.e., 180 days). However, the child accounting membership for any education provided after March 13 will not be reported to PDE.

Child Care

Where do I find guidance and resources on child care providers?

Providers can access the Office of Child Development and Early Learning's materials, which are located on the Pennsylvania Key website, to support their understanding of this guidance. Additional materials developed by the CDC are also available.

On June 2, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) released a Frequently Asked Questions guide for families in need of child care and parents with children that will be returning to a child care facility in counties moving to the yellow or green phase of reopening.

Parents, caregivers, and families can access additional information and resources on the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' COMPASS website.

Early Intervention

How is Early Intervention impacted by COVID-19?

Early Intervention (EI) programs continue to process referrals and teleintervention services are being provided, where appropriate. Parents who have a concern about their child's development may call Pennsylvania's Early Intervention CONNECT: 800-692-7288 for assistance with locating resources and programs. If you are unable to connect with your EI program, or you have difficulty starting teleintervention services, please email the Office of Child Development and Early Learning: ra-ocdintervention@pa.gov.

Educator Preparation Programs

Can Educator Preparation Programs admit students who have not satisfied the basic skills assessment requirement due to the limited availability of assessments as a result of COVID-19?

24 PS § 12-1207.3 requires teacher candidates to achieve a satisfactory score on the basic skills assessment prior to entry into a Pennsylvania baccalaureate educator preparation program. Program administrators should consult their university or college general counsel prior to admitting students who have not satisfied this requirement into educator preparation program courses.

Student teaching competencies state that no more than 50% of student teaching can occur in an online setting.  Can this be expanded to off-set placement shortages that will result from COVID-19?

Due to the pandemic, program providers may exercise flexibility with this standard for the 2020-21 academic year provided the program includes all other quality standards and benchmarks outlined in PDE 430.

Access information on student teaching modifications Pursuant to Act 13 of 2020.

Flexible Instructional Days

May public school entities apply for the flexible instructional day (FID) program for the 2019-20 school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. Act 13 of 2020 (Act 13) authorized the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to waive the FID application deadline for the 2019-20 school year and to increase the number of FIDs a public school entity may use in the 2019-20 school year, which was done via an Order dated April 9, 2020.

Applications to utilize FIDs during the 2019-20 school year may be submitted now through June 15, 2020.

If a public school entity's FID application was accepted prior to March 13, 2020, does it need to submit a special request to use an unlimited number of FIDs for the 2019-20 school year?

No. Public school entities with previously accepted FID applications may use an unlimited number of FIDs for the 2019-20 school year without submitting a special request to PDE. The limit of five (5) FIDs remains for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

Can a public school entity use a FID due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How many FIDs can be used?

With the passage of Act 13 and the Secretary's April 9 Order, public school entities that have FID applications accepted for the 2019-20 school year may use an unlimited number of FIDs during the COVID-19 response effort. The public school entity must meet all of the requirements for a FID related to notifications, equal access to resources/instructors for all students, including attention to free appropriate public education protections for students with disabilities and English as a second language services for English learners, providing health services, and tracking student attendance and participation under Article XIII.

Can any public school entity use a FID for the 2019-20 school year?

No. Only those public school entities that had a FID application accepted prior to March 13, 2020 and public school entities that have FID applications accepted by June 15, 2020 can use FIDs during the 2019-20 school year. Public school entities that do not submit a FID application should review information on PDE's COVID-19 FAQ related to continuity of education plans.

When can public school entities apply for the 2020-21 school year FID program?

The 2020-21 application became available on April 17, 2020. Completed applications and all supporting documents (sample exemplars, approved school board minutes, and signed assurance page) must be submitted to PDE no later than Sept. 1, 2020.

When will PDE notify public school entities if their FID applications are accepted for the 2020-21 school year?

PDE will make determinations on all 2020-21 FID applications on or before Nov. 1, 2020. A public school entity may not use a FID until the public school entity's FID application is accepted by PDE.

Can a private or nonpublic school entity use a FID program for the 2019-20 school year? How about the 2020-21 school year?

24 P.S. § 15-1506, the state law that allows public school entities to develop FID programs to meet the 180 instructional day requirement, does not apply to nonpublic schools. However, a nonpublic school may use technology or other appropriate means to provide instruction to students on days when a school building is prevented from opening.

While nonpublic schools are not required to apply to PDE, procedures are to be in place to ensure the following:

  1. The enforcement of student attendance under Article XIII.
  2. The fulfillment of the minimum number of hours of instruction per year under section 1327, 24 P.S. § 13-1327.

Food Service Costs

How will school entities be reimbursed for costs associated with providing food services during the period of COVID-19 school closures? 

The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs are administered at the federal level by the United States Department of Agriculture and at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Division of Food and Nutrition. Reimbursement is based upon a specified rate and the number of meals served. Because federal and state funds can only be disbursed based upon verifiable data, school entities will be reimbursed at the established federal and state reimbursement rates for actual meals served. School entities should consider whether local ESSER funds may be utilized to support additional costs.

Meals for Children

Are volunteers who assist in food distribution and/or delivery to children required to have clearances under the Child Protective Services Act?

The Child Protective Services Act requires clearances only when a volunteer has "direct volunteer contact" which is defined as "the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children and routine interaction with children." Volunteers who are distributing and/or delivering food are not in charge of the child's care, supervision, guidance, or control; as such, they do not require clearances.

What is the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program?

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provides temporary benefits, referred to as Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), to families of school-aged children who would receive free or reduced-priced meals if school was in session. Visit a webpage that provides information, resources, and answers to frequently asked questions about the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT)

School Construction

May school districts continue construction projects?

School districts, which are independently elected political subdivisions (or “local political units” as described in the Governor’s guidance), should use best judgment in exercising their authority to continue critical construction projects. All school district construction decisions should appropriately balance public health and safety while ensuring the continued safety of critical infrastructure. School districts and contractors must ensure continuance of and compliance with social distancing and other mitigation measures to protect employees and the public, including virtual and telework operations (e.g., work from home) as the primary option when available, as have been or will be established by the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In-person work is only to be performed on the most limited basis possible.

Transportation

How will subsidy payments for pupil transportation services work in the context of Act 13 of 2020?

Act 13 provides a basis for fiscal stabilization for school entities, school entity employees, and pupil transportation services.

The current pupil transportation formula compares an amount determined by a vehicle-based calculation to what the school district actually paid either to a transportation contractor or in providing its own transportation service.  For both contracted services and district-provided operations, the state pays the school district based on the lower of the vehicle-based calculation or the actual cost of services. On average, this subsidy typically covers about 40 percent of school district transportation costs.

Under Act 13, PDE will pay Pupil Transportation Subsidy to school districts by comparing the amount determined by vehicle-based calculation to either: 1) actual costs associated with providing its own transportation service; 2) actual costs associated with the maintenance of a current contract; or 3) actual costs associated with a renegotiated contract.  In all cases, payments will reflect a full school year. 

More specifically, as a result of COVID-19 response efforts, Pupil Transportation Subsidy reporting for the 2019-20 school year for the period beginning March 13, 2020 may reflect the days on which the school district paid for transportation even if students were not transported. This flexibility allows school districts to be more accurately credited for their actual costs.

View further guidance on LEA Subsidy Payments in the Context of Act 13 of 2020.

Will renegotiated transportation contracts that result in lower district payments reduce future subsidy payments?

The ultimate impact on 2020-21 transportation subsidy will depend on the actual costs incurred under any renegotiated contract.

Are public school entities required to continue nonpublic school transportation services while those public schools are closed during COVID-19 response efforts?

No. To further the Commonwealth's social distancing guidance, public schools will not provide any transportation services.

If the drivers employed by a transportation contractor were furloughed during the statewide closure of schools during the 2019-20 school year, are school districts eligible for transportation subsidy for those days?

Pupil Transportation Subsidy reporting for the 2019-20 school year for the period beginning March 13, 2020, may reflect the days on which the school district paid for transportation even if students were not transported. If a school district did not pay for transportation during that period, those days should not be reported in “Number of Days Transported” in the eTran application. A school district should consult its solicitor if it continued to pay its transportation contractor during that period but the transportation contractor did not maintain its workforce.