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Emergency Closures

The PDE Division of School Facilities serves in an advisory capacity for matters related to emergency school closures.  The following section should be referenced before sending any post-incident reports to the Department's attention to receive an opinion on applicability and adherence to the provision.

Explanation of 751 Form

Emergencies

Section 751 of the School Code includes the following emergency provision:

If due to an emergency a school plant or any part thereof becomes unusable, competitive bids for repairs or replacement may be solicited from at least three responsible bidders, and, upon the approval of any of these bids by the board of school directors, the school district may proceed at once to make the necessary repairs or replacements in accordance with the terms of said approved bid or bids; and provided further, that the school district shall notify the Secretary of Education in a form and manner determined by the Secretary of Education that an emergency has occurred and a bid has been selected under the emergency process provided for in this section.

24 P.S. § 7-751 

Below is a list of frequently asked questions designed to assist public school entities in utilizing Section 751's emergency provision.

How do I know if a situation can be considered an emergency under Section 751?

Emergencies under Section 751 are limited to situations or events that have actually occurred rendering the school facility's affected area or system closed or unusable.

Many urgent situations arise in school facilities that are not considered Section 751 emergencies.  Examples include:

  • Potential closures such as structural repair work that needs to be performed on a stadium's grandstand so that it can remain open for use. 
  • Potential system failures such as boiler repair work that needs to be performed so that a school building's heating system does not fail.
     
  • Timeline urgencies such as flooring work that needs to be performed before a school building opens for the academic year. 

To whom does this emergency provision apply?

This emergency provision is applicable to all public school districts, charter schools, career and technical centers, and intermediate units where the intermediate unit is housed in a facility owned by a public school district.

How do I use this emergency provision?

If the definition of an emergency is met, this emergency provision can be utilized, and the situation or event can be remedied as follows:

  • The requirement to advertise the corrective work for bids is waived, allowing the school entity to solicit bids for the corrective work from at least three separate contractors. 
  • There is no requirement to receive three bids.  However, if more than one bid is received, an award needs to be made to the lowest responsible bidder. 
  • Following an award of the corrective work, there is a post-event reporting requirement.  Compliance with this reporting requirement is met by completing and submitting the following form (Emergency Report Form) to the Division of School Facilities.

Does work performed pursuant to this emergency provision need to be completed by separate prime contractors?

No. Work performed under this emergency provision is not subject to the multiple prime contract requirement also cited in Section 751 of the School Code.

Are there times when using this emergency provision does not benefit a school entity?

Yes. Using this emergency provision does not benefit a school entity when the total estimated cost for the corrective work falls within or below certain cost thresholds listed in Section 751.  For example, during the 2020 calendar year:

  • If the total estimated cost for the corrective work falls between $11,300 and $21,000, using the emergency provision is of no benefit to the school entity, because this cost range is already subject to a three bid solicitation.

  • If the total estimated cost for the corrective work is less than $11,300, the school entity can simply make an award to the contractor of their choosing, since this cost range is not subject to advertising for bids nor a solicitation of three bids. 

Please note that the cost thresholds indicated in this example change every January 1 based upon a consumer price index formula calculated by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.  A school entity should consult with their solicitor to determine whether the cost of work falls within or below these annually updated cost thresholds.

How does the involvement of an insurance company affect usage of this emergency provision?

If an insurance company is involved, and they will directly obtain, contract, and pay the corrective work contractor, there is no need to treat the matter as an emergency.