COUNCIL ROCK >> Students in the Council Rock School District won’t be giving up their snow days, at least during the 2019-20 school year.
Superintendent Dr. Robert Fraser announced on August 22 that the district won’t be applying for flexible instructional days for the upcoming school year.
Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 64 into law earlier this summer giving school districts the option of applying to the state Department of Education for up to five flexible instructional days per year.
The flex days would be used when schools are closed due to various circumstances, including building or infrastructure problems, weather-related closures or threats made to the school and its students. Schools would need to reapply every three years.
The flex days, or ‘Cyber Snow Days’ as they have been dubbed, would allow districts to use technology to ensure the continuity of learning. Students who lack internet access at home would have special accommodations.
“When this law was first passed I was excited about it. I was optimistic and hopeful for it,” said Fraser who participated in a handful of meetings over the summer with teachers and support staff leadership to discuss the logistics.
At about the same time, Fraser said the state Department of Education issued further guidance on the new law, which he said made it “problematic” for the district to participate.
In that guidance, Fraser said every IUP team in the district would have to meet before using a flexible day. In addition, he said health services would still need to be provided to students.
“Certainly we are not of the mindset to put our nurses out on roads while we are in the middle of a snowstorm or an ice storm,” said Fraser.
“There were a couple of logistics that ended up being deal breakers, at least for us, at least for this year,” said Fraser. “I don’t think we’re alone in making this decision. Virtually, if not every Bucks County school district has made the same decision as us.
“We will learn more as we go through this upcoming year, reassess and make a new decision for the following school year,” said Fraser.
Passage of the law followed a three year pilot program by the state DOE that saw a dozen school districts participate.
“School districts need the added flexibility of ensuring their students’ continuity of education is not interrupted by the weather or any other unplanned school closure,” said State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill who sponsored the legislation. “The pilot program drew overwhelmingly positive reviews from participating school districts.
"Based on the responses from the districts that were enrolled in the program, there is no doubt that this option should be made available to each and every school district across the state,” said the senator.
Act 64 codified the pilot program into state law providing the option to all schools, both public and private, to allow students to work from home during a school closure.