Flexible Instructional Day Program
With the passage of Act 13 of 2020 ("Act 13"), the requirement that all school entities be kept open for a minimum of 180 instructional days has been waived for the 2019-20 school year. However, Act 13 authorized the Secretary of Education ("Secretary"), for the 2019-20 school year, to increase the number of Flexible Instructional Days ("FID") that public school entities may institute and waive the application deadline for school entities to submit a FID application, which was done via an Order dated April 9, 2020.
A FID is a program available to public school entities to be used as an alternate approach to delivering instruction if a circumstance arises that prevents instruction in customary manner.
Background and Eligibility
With the passage of Act 64 of 2019, section 1506 was added to the Pennsylvania Public School Code ("School Code"), 24 P.S. § 15-1506, enabling public school entities the opportunity to develop a FID program to meet the 180 instructional day requirement of section 1501 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code, 24 P.S. § 15-1501. The FID program may be online, offline, or a combination of the two. Act 64 defines a public school entity as a school district, intermediate unit, area vocational-technical school, or charter school or regional charter school, as defined under section 1703-A.
While public school entities are expected to build make-up days into their local school calendars, FID programs can support the public school entities in cases when circumstances prevent the delivery of instruction in its customary manner or location for any of the following reasons: an epidemic, a hazardous weather condition, a law enforcement emergency, the inoperability of school buses or other equipment necessary to the public school entity's operation, damage to a school building, or a temporary circumstance rendering any portion of a school building unfit or unsafe for use. With the exception of the 2019-20 school year, if a public school entity is approved to implement a FID program, the number of FIDs instituted may not exceed five (5) days per school year.
A public school entity electing to institute a FID program must develop a FID program that meets the assurances outlined in the application. The FID application must be approved by the public school entity's governing body prior to acceptance by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).
Application Submission Options and Deadlines
PDE will be reopening the FID application window, starting April 15, 2020. Public school entities have two options:
Public school entities applying for a FID program for the 2019-20 school year: If a public school entity submits an application, inclusive of all required documentation on or before June 15, 2020, the public school entity may implement the proposed FID program for an unlimited number of days through the end of the 2019-20 school year, as waived by Act 13. The proposed FID program application will then receive a complete review by PDE to determine completeness and acceptance of the application for implementation in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. PDE will notify the public school entity as to whether its application meets the requirements of section 1506 of the School Code, 24 P.S. § 15-1506, and is therefore accepted, no later than Nov. 1, 2020. If the application is accepted for use during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, the public school entity is limited to five (5) FIDs for those years.
The following documentation is to be provided by June 15, 2020 if the school wishes to utilize a FID program for the 2019-20 school year: a completed application, including the uploading of exemplars; electronic signature page; and a letter of commitment of intent to adopt a FID program signed by the public school entity's Board President and Superintendent/CAO. Additionally, approved Board minutes, evidencing the board resolution approving the FID application must be submitted no later than Sept. 1, 2020.
Public school entities applying for a FID program beginning in the 2020-21 school year: For public school entities wishing to implement a FID program beginning in the 2020-21 school year: Applications and all required documentation must be submitted by Sept. 1, 2020. PDE will notify the public school entity whether its application meets the requirements of section 1506 of the School Code, 24 P.S. § 15-1506, and is therefore accepted, no later than Nov. 1, 2020. If accepted, the public school entity may implement a FID program for the 2020-21 school year and two subsequent years. A FID program cannot be instituted during the 2020-21 school year or in subsequent school years, prior to PDE accepting the public school entity's FID program application.
If accepted by PDE, the FID program is in place for a three-year period and may be renewed thereafter.
Pursuant to section 1506 of the School Code, 24 P.S. § 15-1506, PDE shall conduct an annual study on the efficacy of FIDs. A survey will be sent on or before April 30 of each year to each public school entity with an accepted application. Each public school entity shall return the survey to PDE by June 30 of the same year. The survey results will be used to track FID day usage, gauge overall effectiveness, and gather insights on implementing a program.
Information on the applications, deadlines, required documentation, and guidance may be accessed via the links below.
For additional information, all public school and nonpublic school entities should email PDE's School Services Office: firstname.lastname@example.org.