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Flexible Instructional Day Guidance Considerations

A Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program can support public school entities in cases when circumstances (e.g., 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, or another temporary circumstance rendering any portion of a school building unfit or unsafe for use) prevent the delivery of instruction in its customary manner or location.

Act 13 of 2020 (Act 13) provided the Secretary of Education with the authority to waive the deadline for submission of FID applications and to determine the maximum number of FIDs a public school entity may utilize for the 2019-20 school year only. If a public school entity chooses to implement a FID program for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, 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 years, after which it may choose to reapply.

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

Topics: Access to Materials and Resources | Attendance | Board Approval and Utilization | Contingency Plans | Health Services | Instructional Exemplar | Meeting FAPE | Non-Public School Requirements | Stakeholder Support | Technical Assistance and Support | Training

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 the 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 demonstrations 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 demonstrations should be provided by virtual means during the COVID-19 school closures.

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.

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), a policy that addresses alternatives to the planned program is critical. In the case of a localized power outage, a school entity must have a back-up plan to address a power failure in all or part of the district. 

Consider a policy that addresses extenuating circumstances and what workarounds would be available for students to meet the FID requirements.

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.

Attendance

How important is attendance tracking?

Attendance reporting is strictly enforced by PDE in compliance with Article XIII of the Pennsylvania Public School Code (School Code).  Students who did not participate during the FID should be reported as having either excused or unexcused absences, accordingly.

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 may 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 representative of instruction on a FID. Exemplars are lesson plans that should model Danielson practices.

When submitting an exemplar, confirm its completeness via the rubric criteria:

Instructional Exemplar 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
Varied resources
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?

Health care services must be in compliance with Article XIV of the School Code as with any regular instructional day.

Board Approval and Utilization of FIDs for the 2019-20 and Subsequent School Years

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

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 FIDS 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 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 application, procedures must be in place to ensure the enforcement of student attendance under Article XIII of the School Code and the fulfillment of the minimum hours of instruction per year under section 1327.