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Flexible Instructional Day Guidance Considerations

Topics: What is a Flexible Instruction Day | How to Apply | Important Topics | Stakeholder Support | Training | Access to Materials and Resources | Contingency Plans | Meeting Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) | Attendance | Technical Assistance and Support | Instructional Exemplar | Health Services | Board Approval and Utilization of FIDs for the 2021-22 SY and Subsequent School Years | Non-Public School Requirements

What is a Flexible Instruction Day?

A Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program can support public school entities in cases when circumstances prevent the delivery of instruction in its customary manner or location. For example, this could include an epidemic, hazardous weather condition, law enforcement emergency, inoperability of school buses or other equipment necessary to the public school entity's operation, damage to a school building(s), or another temporary circumstance rendering any portion of a school building(s) unfit or unsafe for use.  (Act 64 of 2019, Pennsylvania Public School Code, 24 P.S. §15-1506).

A FID is not used to replace another planned day on the calendar when a public school entity has chosen to close one or more of its buildings (e.g., Election Day or planned holidays or school break).  A FID is used for events that affect all students (e.g., major snow storm that closes all school buildings) and not for use when only one building closes (e.g., a water main break) or when only a segment of students are affected (e.g., graduating seniors or kindergarteners).

If the public school entity chooses to implement a FID program beginning in the 2021-22 school year, the number of FIDs may not exceed five (5) days per school year.  If accepted, a public school entity's application extends for a period of three school years, after which it may choose to reapply.

How to Apply

The first step to gaining access to the Future Ready Comprehensive Planning Portal  (FCRRP) is to ensure that you are a registered user on the PDE portal MyPDESuite.  If you are not a registered user, please click on the following link for further assistance:  Accessing the Future Ready Comprehensive Planning Portal and Gaining Access to LEA and School Plans.

Please contact your local education agency's Local Security Administrator to add/remove users in MyPDESuite.

For technical issues with accessing the portal, please contact the PA Planning Team at paplanning@caiu.org or call 717-732-8403.

Important Topics

A successful FID program starts with submitting an application to PDE that addresses the items noted in this guidance document.

Stakeholder Support

How critical is stakeholder awareness and understanding of FID protocol?

  • Creating awareness along with a clear understanding of FID programs is critical to successful implementation. Students, staff, parents, school board, and community all need a clear understanding of how the program will work and what roles each must play.
  • Consider the availability of both school and community resources and how to most effectively inform and gain support from all stakeholders as to the purpose and structure of FIDs as ALL students must be able to participate during a FID, as this is a regular instructional day.
  • Consider presentations at parent advisory meetings and other onsite school functions to provide an overview of how the system works as well as a posting a step by step set of directions on accessing the necessary resources on your entity's website. These presentations could also be provided by virtual means to stakeholders.
  • Your public school entity's governing body must approve your FID program application through a vote by its members. You must submit signed meeting minutes OR a signed board affirmation statement as evidence of the board resolution approving your FID application.

Training

Does everyone understand how to complete the assignments and the expectations for learning?

  • Staff, students, and parents play key roles in FID success. Specifically, if technology is the chosen method for delivery of instruction, staff, students, and parents must all know how to access and use the online services and resources.
  • While teachers can prepare students on the procedure to complete work online, parents, guardians, and other care providers, such as grandparents, will require some basic knowledge to assist students if help is needed. 
  • Specialized professional development for teachers may assist in ensuring program success.  Consider sessions that focus on the following:
    • Curriculum design for asynchronous instruction
    • Instruction and classroom management in a virtual setting
    • Lesson design that encourages student engagement

Access to Materials and Resources

Does everyone have access to the materials required to complete the work during the FID?

  • Access to the materials and resources required for instruction and completing assignments must be made available for all students during the FID. Students and staff must be able to access instruction and/or instructional materials on the day of flexible instruction in order to be considered participating and in attendance for the purposes of Article XIII of the School Code "Pupils and Attendance."

Contingency Plans

What do you do if or when there are unexpected extenuating circumstances?

  • For unexpected situations that may occur during a FID (e.g., localized power outage in one area of a district or a lack of internet access for an individual student of group of students), a policy that addresses alternatives to the planned program is critical, including a detailed backup plan with alternative methods of accessing materials.
  • Consider a policy that addresses extenuating circumstances and what workarounds would be available for students to meet the FID requirements.
  • A public school entity is required to have a contingency plan so that all students are able to participate on a FID, even in the case of a power outage or a failure of technology, when your primary method(s) of instruction and support of completing work on the FID fails.  Access to the materials and resources needed for instruction must be made available prior to or during the FID, not afterwards.
  • Access to support from instructors must be made available on the FID through multiple methods (email, phone, text, etc.)
  • The option to get the work after a FID and be counted in attendance due to technology or Internet issues is not in compliance. Ensure your attendance policy meets with requirements of Article XIII of the School Code "Pupils and Attendance."

Meeting Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

How will you address the needs of all students for instruction, especially students with disabilities?

  • Prior to the implementation of a FID, the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team should convene to determine how to best meet a student's needs and determine what supports/alternate means may be employed to meet the participation requirement. Failure to do so may result in the student being granted compensatory education.  All students, including those with special needs or disabilities must be able to participate on the FID.
  • Your FID program must take into account those students that require modifications and accommodations in order to participate on the FID.

Attendance

How important is attendance tracking?

  • Attendance reporting is strictly enforced by PDE in compliance with Article XIII of the School Code.  Students who did not participate during the FID should be reported as having either excused or unexcused absences, accordingly. 
  • Attendance should be tracked on the FID using one or more methods, in case of the failure of technology.
  • If assignments are used as a measure of attendance, then these assignments should be submitted on the FID or in the case of hard copy work, immediately upon return to school.
  • Giving credit for work submitted after the FID should be consistent with your grading policies but should not be confused with tracking attendance. 

Technical Assistance and Support

How will you support students, teachers, parents and/or care providers who are having difficulty accessing technology and/or completing assignments during the FID?

  • Access to technical assistance and support during the FID for both teachers and students may help to avert problems that arise. Consider having technology staff available during the FID (e.g., email, chat, phone) to address any issues that arise. 

Instructional Exemplar

Note:  PDE has provided an exemplar template available on the SharePoint site and on the PDE Flexible Instructional Day webpage. 

What will be taught and how will your teachers know if the material was learned?

  • Public school entities are required to submit a series of exemplars, using the PDE provided templates and be representative of instruction on a FID. If you submit exemplars using another template or format, these will be returned and require resubmission.
  • Exemplars are a single-day or short multi-day lesson plans that should model Danielson practices. Unit plans or quarterly curriculum programs should not be submitted as exemplars.
  • When submitting an exemplar, confirm its completeness via the rubric criteria:
    • Standards identified
    • Clear and sequenced organization
    • Goals and expectations for learning clearly communicated
    • Activities support instructional outcomes and important concepts
    • Opportunities for student choice and accommodations for students with special needs
    • Varied resources, including access to materials should the internet be unavailable or technology fail.
    • Formative assessments that match desired outcome

* Note: This rubric is designed solely to verify completeness and is not a quality review. 

Health Services

How will students access health services during the FID? 

Board Approval and Utilization of FIDs for the 2021-22 SY and Subsequent School Years.

How will PDE know that the Board has approved your FID program? 

Public school entities applying for a FIDS program beginning in the 2021-22 school year:

Completed applications (responses to all narratives/questions, a completed assurance section, all required exemplars, approved Board minutes, and Superintendent's/Chief Administrator's electronic signature) must be submitted by June 1, 2021. Incomplete applications will be denied. 

No later than August 1, 2021, 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. If accepted, the public school entity may implement a FID program for the 2021-22 school year and two subsequent years. A FID program cannot be instituted during the 2021-22 school year or subsequent years prior to PDE accepting the public school entity's FID program application.

Non-Public School Requirements

What requirements exist for a non-public school to offer instruction?

  • A non-public school may use technology or other appropriate means to provide instruction to students on days when a school building is prevented from opening.
  • While a non-public school is not required to submit an FID application, procedures must be in place to ensure the enforcement of student attendance under Article XIII "Pupils and Attendance" of the School Code and the fulfillment of the minimum hours of instruction per year under Article XIII, Section 1327 "Compulsory School Attendance."