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.
Topics: Assessments* | Attestation Form |
CARES Act |
Case(s) of COVID-19 in Pre-K to 12 Schools |
Child Accounting Reporting |
Child Care |
Contact Tracing |
Continuing Professional Education |
Data Collections |
Early Intervention |
Educator Preparation Programs |
Employee Evaluations |
Fire and School Security Drills |
Flexible Instructional Days (FIDs) |
Food Service Costs |
Future Ready PA Index |
Instructional Model Recommendations |
LEA Subsidy Payments |
Masks/Face Coverings Order |
Meals for Children | P-EBT | Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program |
Providing In-Home Services |
Receiving In-Home Services |
School Age Child Care Programs |
School Construction |
School Nurses |
Special Education Services |
Targeted Mitigation Order |
Truancy and Attendance |
Unemployment Compensation Benefits |
Topics featuring an asterisk (*) above were updated during the week of April 19, 2021.
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.
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'
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:
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
Act 13 of 2020
Access information on student teaching modifications Pursuant to Act 13 of 2020.
Access information on emergency program guidelines on field experiences for educational specialist, supervisory, and administrator candidates expected to complete their programs during the 2020-21 academic year.
Flexible Instructional Days
Can a public school entity use a FID due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How many FIDs can be used?
Yes. 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. With an
accepted application, a public school entity may use up to five (5) FIDs per
Can any public school entity use a FID for the 2020-21 school year?
No. Only those public school entities that had a FID application accepted prior to November 1, 2020 can use FIDs during the 2020-21 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 and Emergency Instructional Time Templates (EITT).
When can public school entities apply for the 2021-22 school year FID program?
The 2021-22 application became available on April 1,
2021. Completed applications and all supporting documents (sample exemplars,
approved school board minutes, and signed assurance page) must be submitted to
PDE no later than June. 1, 2021. PDE will make determinations by no later
than August 1, 2021.
When will PDE notify public school entities if their FID applications are accepted for the 2021-22 school year?
PDE will make determinations on all 2020-21 FID applications on or before August 1, 2021. 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 2020-21 school year? How about the 2021-22 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:
- The enforcement of student attendance under Article XIII.
- 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).
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.
Where can the guidance and certification form be found for the COVID-19-related Pupil Transportation
changes for school year 2020-21 per the new language under Section 1501.8?
The guidance and certification form is available on our website.
Does section 1501.8 permit Intermediate Units (IUs) to continue to pay contractors "Cost less Variable Expense" even though no services were provided?
Yes, IUs can continue to pay contractors even if no services were provided.
Are Intermediate Units (IU) affected by Section 1501.8?
Yes. The statutory definition of
school entities in Section 1501.8 includes IUs. However, unlike districts, IUs are paid based on budgeted expenditures with a reconciliation based on updated expenditures in the same year they provide the transportation service. PDE will provide further guidance specific to the intermediate units soon.
Does the section 1501.8 subsidy calculation also apply to the Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation Subsidy?
No, the language in 1501.8 only applies to the Pupil Transportation Subsidy. Since the reimbursement for nonpublic and charter school transportation is based on a flat rate of $385 per student transported, a student must be transported for the school district to be eligible to receive the subsidy.
If the school district only transported 32 students on a bus that normally transports 72 students, how many students should be reported in eTran as transported on the vehicle?
A school district should report the actual number of students for "greatest number of pupils assigned to a vehicle." If the greatest number of students assigned to a vehicle in the 2020-21 school year was 32, that is the figure that should be reported in eTran.
For eTran data reporting related to school year 2019-20, we were permitted to report the number of days as if we were still transporting students.
For 2020-21, are LEAs to report actual vehicle data in eTran for number of days transported?
Yes, data reported for school year 2020-21 must be actual information. The provisions of section 1501.8 prevent a severe drop-off of critical Pupil Transportation Subsidy funds. If school districts choose to continue to pay their contractors in compliance with Section 1501.8 then school district should not experience a significant drop in Pupil Transportation Subsidy.
Does a school district have to submit the contractors' certification of variable costs to PDE?
No, the contractor's certification is only for the school district's records. PDE only requires submission of the
Certification to PDE by School District.
The school district renegotiated a transportation contract to pay for some categories that are considered variable costs in the PDE guidance.
Can those costs still be reported as part of "amount paid to contractor" in eTran?
Yes. The "amount paid contractor" should be reflective of the actual amount paid to the contractor.
A school district renegotiated a transportation contract to pay variable costs.
Should the contractor still include those as variable costs on its certification to the school district?
No, any costs paid to contractor are not considered a variable cost.
Can the school district accept another form of certification from the contractor
in lieu of the
Certification to School District by Contractor posted on the PDE website?
School districts can accept other certification formats. Any certifications should include the total amount of reduced variable costs for the period invoiced and a signed statement attesting to the accuracy of the information. School districts are not required to request any supporting documentation from their contractor to be able to certify to PDE that the contractor was paid as though the pandemic did not occur.
If the school district paid the contractor for full transportation costs through October 2020, but began fully-remote learning in November 2020, how will its subsidy be affected?
Because the Pupil Transportation Subsidy is based, in part, on the students transported, the school district is likely to see a decrease in the amount of Pupil Transportation Subsidy. Section 1501.8 attempts to mitigate this impact by reducing the amount paid to the contractor for variable costs. To assess the amount of variable costs paid by a contractor, a school district could ask its contractor to compare 1) the variable costs for a day, week, or month that were impacted by COVID-19 in the 2020-2021 school year to 2) the amount paid for variable costs in the most recent similar period of normal operations.
Are there any resources online for a school district to estimate its Pupil Transportation Subsidy?
Yes, the PDE website has resources to assist the school district in estimating its Pupil Transportation Subsidy.
Vehicle Formula Allowance Worksheet: estimating worksheet for individual vehicle formula allowance.
Worksheet to Estimate Pupil Transportation Subsidies: estimating worksheet for a school district's transportation subsidies.
Access the worksheets noted above on PDE's website.
How does Section 1501.8 impact career and technical centers (CTCs)?
While a small number of CTCs complete data in eTran, that information is only used for Pupil Transportation Subsidy calculations and Section 1501.8 will not impact CTC data that need to be entered.
Act 136 of 2020
How will subsidy payments for pupil transportation work in the context of Act 136?
On November 25, 2020, Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 1216 (Act 136 of 2020). This legislation included the new sub-section m.1 within Section 1501.8, which created a modified calculation of the Pupil Transportation Subsidy for school year 2020-2021, payable in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Pursuant to this amendment of the School Code, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) must publish guidelines describing variable costs, in consultation with Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, and Pennsylvania School Bus Association. These guidelines include the following information: clarification of statutory requirements; fefinition of the term 'variable costs;' and a list of variable costs eligible to be included in the process outlined in School Code Section 1501.8(m.1).
Access Act 136 of 2020 information as it applies to Pupil Transportation Subsidy for school year 2020-2021.
If a school district implements an instructional model that is either a) fully remote; or b) blended (i.e., mix of remote and in-person), what is the school district’s obligation to provide charter school transportation?
Transportation is required for charter school students attending brick and mortar charter schools, regardless of whether the school district is providing transportation for its own students. Section 1726-A of the School Code states that school districts are required to provide transportation in accordance with the geographic parameters set forth therein, to any such charter school to resident students “on such dates and periods that the charter school is in regular session whether or not transportation is provided on such dates and periods to students attending schools of the district.” School districts are advised to consult with their solicitors on required transportation to resident students attending charter schools in light of evolving instructional models due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If a brick and mortar charter school implements a blended instructional model, what charter school transportation is required by a resident school district?
Section 1726-A of the School Code states that school districts are required to provide transportation to a charter school for resident students enrolled in that charter school. School districts and charter schools should work together to provide manageable and safe routines for pupil transportation. School districts also are advised to consult with their solicitors on required transportation to resident students attending charter schools in light of evolving instructional models due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Will school districts still be reimbursed for their transportation of charter school students?
Yes. School districts should report any transportation provided, except as prohibited by law (e.g.,) transporting students who live within 1.5 or 2.0 miles of their building, if not a hazardous route). For 2020-21 transportation, Pupil Transportation Subsidy will be paid during the 2021-22 fiscal year based on the individual vehicle data reported. Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation Subsidy of $385 per student will also be paid during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
If a school district implements an instructional model that is either a) fully remote; or b) blended, what is the school district’s obligation to provide nonpublic transportation?
Section 1361 of the School Code states that a school district that provides transportation to its resident public school students must make “identical provision” for the free transportation of resident students attending nonpublic schools in accordance with the geographic parameters set forth in the law. Any such transportation is required to be provided during regular school hours on such dates and periods that the nonprofit nonpublic school is in regular session, according to the school calendar officially adopted by the nonpublic school.
School districts and nonpublic schools should work together to provide manageable and safe routines for pupil transportation. School districts are also advised to consult with their solicitors on required transportation to resident students attending nonpublic schools in light of evolving instructional models due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School districts can receive reimbursement for transporting nonpublic students even if they do not transport district students.
Will school districts be reimbursed for their transportation of nonpublic students for the 2020-21 school year?
Yes. School districts should report any transportation provided, except as prohibited by law (e.g., transporting students who live within 1.5 or 2.0 miles of their building, if not a hazardous route). For 2020-21 transportation, Pupil Transportation Subsidy will be paid during the 2021-22 fiscal year based on the individual vehicle data reported. Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation Subsidy of $385 per student also will be paid during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Act 13 of 2020
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.
Access 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.
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.
Fire and School Security Drills
Is a school that is currently using a blended (hybrid) instructional model, where students are receiving in-person instruction on a part-time basis, required to report fire and school security drills to PDE?
Yes. Schools conducting in-person instruction for seven days or more a month are required to report all required drills. For specific information related to required drills, please consult the
Fire Drills, School Security Drills, and School Bus Evacuations BEC (24 P.S. §15-1517).
Must a school follow the Governor’s Targeted Mitigation Order when conducting a fire or school security drill?
Yes, a school that exceeds 250 students must ensure proper social distancing during the drill. Schools can be flexible in how to conduct drills by involving certain sections of the building/grade levels/floors of the building on different days to adhere to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on social distancing and
current targeted mitigation orders for outside gatherings. Schools that exercise this flexibility should vary student participation from month to month to impact the entire student population.
Is a school required to report fire drills to PDE for the months when it is only providing remote instruction?
No, a school that is only using a remote instructional delivery model and providing no in-person instruction is not required to report a fire drill for that month. Reports are only required for the months in which the school provides seven or more days of in-person instruction.
Must a school report to PDE that it conducted a school security drill within the first 90 days of the school year?
Yes, a school that conducts a school security drill in lieu of a fire drill within the first 90 days of students participating in in-person instruction is required to report that drill to PDE. If a school is fully remote, there is no in-person instruction, therefore it is not required to report to PDE. When the school resumes in-person instruction, it must report to PDE that it conducted a school security drill within 90 days from the start date of in-person instruction including a blended (hybrid) instructional model.
Do schools need to follow recommended health and safety guidelines when conducting fire and school security drills?
Schools should adhere to
guidelines provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and CDC regarding social distancing and face covering requirements during fire and school security drills.
Are there any methods of conducting a school security drill that ensures the school adheres to the current DOH guidelines?
Yes. One method that schools can use is a shelter in place activity followed by an in-person classroom lesson on additional security protocols and expected behaviors. All protocols regarding notifications must be followed.
What is the requirement for bus evacuation drills for the 2020-21 school year?
As long as buses are transporting any students, schools must conduct bus evacuation drills for the school year. Schools should adhere to guidelines provided by DOH and CDC regarding social distancing and face covering requirements during these drills.