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​COVID-19 Answers to Common Questions

The information on this page is specific to the 2021-22 school year.

Topics: ARP ESSER |  Child Care | Early InterventionHealth and Safety Plans |  P-EBT | Transportation | Unemployment Compensation Benefits | Vaccine

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.

Transportation

Section 1501.8

Where can the guidance and certification form be found for the COVID-19-related Pupil Transportation Subsidy 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 school districts, IUs are paid based on budgeted expenditures with a reconciliation based on updated expenditures in the same year they provide the transportation service.

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 district chooses to continue to pay its 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 definition 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.

Charter Schools

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.

Nonpublic Schools 

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.