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Student Enrollment and Attendance

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Related to COVID-19 State-Mandated School Closure

Topics: Enrollment Procedures | Instruction | Child Accounting Reporting for the Remainder of 2019-2020 School Year

Page last updated: 8pm on April 8, 2020

During the COVID-19 school closures, local education agencies (LEAs) continue to be responsible for enrolling and educating new students during the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. 

As such, LEAs should review their current enrollment policies and procedures and make decisions and adjustments, as needed, to provide all students with continuity of education. LEAs also should post enrollment information, including a point of contact, on their public website so that the information is easily accessible to parents/caregivers and other LEAs.

This document is intended to provide school leaders with guidance as they make decisions related to enrollment procedures and establishing continuity of education programs for new enrollees during the time of extended school closures. For the purposes of this document, LEA is defined as a school district, career and technical center, intermediate unit, charter school, cyber charter school or regional charter school.

Enrollment Procedures

Are LEAs responsible for enrolling students while schools are closed due to COVID-19?

Yes. Students presented for enrollment must be enrolled and provided continuity of education in the same manner as all other enrolled students. This includes students who move during the extended school closures.

How long does an LEA have to enroll a new student?

As per the Basic Education Circular (BEC) on Enrollment of Students, LEAs have up to five business days to enroll a child after receipt of application. Enrollment should not be delayed due to failure to provide prior school records or special education documents, or an LEA's difficulty in determining a child's placement.

Can students choose to remain in their current school or district if they move to another district?

Many LEAs have adopted policies that allow students to finish the school year in their current school/district after moving to another school/district. Given the unique and unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, LEAs are strongly encouraged to allow a student to remain in their current school/district, if that is the student's preference and whenever feasible.

Federal provisions pertaining to children experiencing homelessness require that a student meeting the definition of homeless be allowed to continue their continuity of education instruction after moving. Unless a placement is not in the child's best interest, children experiencing homelessness are entitled to receive a continuity of education program from their "school of origin", the school they attended when permanently housed or where they were last enrolled. Additional guidance is available in the Education for Homeless Youth Basic Education Circular or McKinney-Vento Homeless Education webpage on PDE's website.

In addition, LEAs are reminded that under ESSA provisions, a child placed in foster care or experiencing a change in foster care placement should remain enrolled in the school of origin unless it is determined that it is in not in the child's best interest to remain in that school. LEAs should continue to complete Best Interest Determinations (BID) during the pandemic.

Must LEAs collect all currently required documentation (immunization records, academic records, home language surveys, etc.) during the enrollment process?

Social distancing guidelines, particularly during a "stay at home" order, may make it difficult for schools and students/families to obtain the documentation typically required for school enrollment. LEAs should exercise flexibility in the documentation accepted and the manner of receiving such documentation. For example, LEAs may wish to employ electronic or telephonic processes for receiving information and records.

May LEAs begin continuity of education programs while awaiting enrollment documentation?

Yes. LEAs are strongly encouraged to begin continuity of education as early as possible during the enrollment process.

Do the enrollment requirements outlined in this guidance pertain to charter schools?

Yes. All LEAs, which includes charter schools, are accountable for enrolling students upon receipt of proof of residency, with two notes:

  1. A charter school must enroll students consistent with requirements set forth in Section 1723-A of the School Code.  In addition, a charter school that has an enrollment cap or similar parameter in its charter must enroll students consistent with that parameter.  Any students placed on a charter school waiting list should remain in their current school placements until such time as they can be enrolled and provided instruction.
  2. Given the unique statewide nature of cyber charter enrollment, any cyber charter school receiving requests for enrollment that exceed their staffing or technical capacity should contact PDE to explore remedies.

Do these requirements apply to Early Intervention programs?   

Enrollment and attendance requirements of the School Code do not apply to Early Intervention programs. However, Early Intervention programs must continue to make decisions regarding eligibility where it is possible and enroll eligible young children as appropriate.

How are LEAs to manage enrollment of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)?

LEAs should follow typical local enrollment processes by asking the enrolling family if their child receives special education services. If a child is receiving services, the LEA should request records from the child's prior school.

Social distancing guidelines, particularly during a "stay at home" order, may make it difficult for schools and families to obtain the records typically requested for enrollment. LEAs should exercise flexibility in the documentation accepted and the manner of receiving such documentation. For example, LEAs may wish to employ electronic or telephonic processes for transmitting records.

It would be acceptable under these circumstances to accept current special education documents without signatures from a sending LEA with the intention of securing signatures upon return to school. The sending LEA should give written assurance via email that the documents are current and finalized, and that signature pages are at the site and will be secured and sent to the receiving LEA when school reopens. 

How are LEAs to manage enrollment of students with English language instruction needs?

If no other means are available, the LEA should conduct a home language survey virtually or by phone for a new enrollment. If the child requires English language instruction, the LEA should request records of services from the student's prior school/district.

Instruction

How should an LEA determine instructional programming (courses, classes, etc.) in the absence of prior academic records?

LEAs should use their best judgement on placement of students (grade level, age, special needs, English learner) if unable to obtain academic records from the student's prior school/district. LEAs may also administer online academic assessments to assist in this determination.

May LEAs administer assessments as students enroll?

LEAs may administer assessments when enrolling students if they can be conducted virtually or in any other manner that adheres to social distancing guidelines. 

How are LEAs to handle providing final grades, promotion and graduation of students who enroll in a new school during the COVID-19 closures?

During current school closures, calculating and assigning final grades for students who enroll during the closure may present challenges for LEAs. The Department encourages schools to assign grades based on the best information available. Chief School Administrators should consider if enough information exists from the sending school to calculate and assign a final grade, as well as to promote a student.

LEAs should provide support for students whose sending records indicate academic concerns or failing courses and provide them the opportunity, to the extent feasible, to demonstrate learning in the subject matter required for credit and/or promotion to the next grade.

Child Accounting Reporting for the Remainder of 2019-2020 School Year

For more information, please review the content under Child Accounting Reporting on our COVID-19 answers to frequently asked questions page.

How should LEAs report their child accounting data to PDE for the 2019-20 school year?

PDE will consider all child accounting data final as of March 13, 2020. For school year 2019-20, LEAs will only report data to PDE for the period of July 1, 2019 through March 13, 2020. 

How will limiting the child accounting reporting period impact the average daily membership (ADM) calculation, and therefore, subsidies such as Basic Education Funding?

Only data from July 1, 2019 through March 13, 2020 will be used to calculate ADM. However, this approach will not impact school subsidies. PDE calculates ADM based on the number of days a student is enrolled in a school divided by the number of days the school is in session. One ADM is still one ADM, regardless of whether the school was in session 120 days or 180 days.

Are LEAs required to report attendance to PDE during the statewide closure?

LEAs are not required to report student attendance to PDE during the closure, though they should take attendance for their local records. All LEAs are strongly encouraged to establish a process for tracking student learning and ensuring that all students are participating in continuity of education programming. 

Does this guidance impact PDE's earlier statement that LEAs do not have to adjust their calendars?

No. LEAs still do not have to add instructional days or change their graduation dates.