Bill seeks to give schools options for making up lost days
Many students who rejoiced in the wake of the recent blizzard that kept them out of school for days might find themselves stuck in a hot classroom at the end of the school year to make up for them.
A House bill sponsored by Reps. Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion; Seth Grove, R-Dover; and Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, among others, seeks to offer school districts more options when it comes to rescheduling cancellations forced on them by weather and other emergencies.
“The recent snowstorm brought back memories of the 2014-15 school year, which stretched into early summer because of the harsh winter that preceded it,” Saylor stated in a press release. “House Bill 158 would give school superintendents some flexibility as they try to avoid adding an inordinate number of days to the end of the school calendar.”
Phillips-Hill recalled an instance during her tenure as a Dallastown Area school board member when the high school's seniors attended a board meeting after a slew of make-up days were added onto the end of the school calendar.
"They came into the meeting all dressed up and cited different statutes and just begged us to let them graduate on time," she said. "Now to get something like that to happen, in order to get that flexibility, it would require an act from legislators."
House Bill 158, on the other hand, would streamline the process and allow the secretary of education to declare emergency situations for individual districts, and in turn give those districts some alternative scheduling choices, Phillips-Hill said. School boards in those districts then would be able to vote and redefine the requirement of their school year.
Schools are required to be in session for a total of 180 days, or 900 hours at the elementary level and 990 hours at the secondary level, Grove said, adding the bill would allow school officials to shift their attention to the total hours of instruction.
"We want to make sure kids get the full 180 days," he said. "But instead of requiring a certain number of days, they'd be able to focus on the hourly requirement," which would allow for districts to add time on at the beginning or end of already-scheduled school days. The bill would also allow for districts to schedule make-up days on Saturday, he said, though teachers wouldn't be able to schedule tests for those days.
Phillips-Hill emphasized the bill would not in anyway lessen the amount of time students spend in the classroom in the over-all scheme of things.
"We certainly want the kids to get the time in the classroom they need and for the taxpayers to get what they’re paying for, which is the equivalent of 180 days," she said. "We're just looking to make things easier, less costly, and the means to offer the best instruction."
House Bill 158 was presented to Gov. Tom Wolf and is awaiting his approval.
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.