6 Questions About School Closures in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware
What happens if they miss too many days? What about statewide testing this spring? Do they have to offer home instruction?
You know Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware schools are closed, but what does that mean for your kids' education in the next couple weeks and months?
The states' education departments are trying to answer those questions and we've collected some of their responses. Keep in mind, these answers might change as conditions change or they gather more information, so check Pennsylvania's site here; New Jersey here, and Delaware here.
Are private and charter schools ordered closed?
Gov. Wolf ordered all public schools and charter schools closed.That includes cyber charter schools (Although at least one cyber charter school says it has gotten permission from the state to resume classes.) He also ordered all childcare centers that operate within those schools closed.
In suburban Philadelphia (Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties), which fall under the state's "aggessive social distancing guidelines" private and parochial schools must be closed too.
New Jersey is closing all public and private schools starting tomorrow. Last week, Delaware ordered all public and charter schools closed for two weeks.
What happens if schools can't get enough days in before the end of the year?
Pennsylvania says it won't penalize schools that can't get in the normally mandated 180-days of school. New Jersey says that as long as a school is offering "home instruction services" it will count as one of the 180 days.
So maybe schools won't have to go into the summer to make up the missed days.
Are schools obligated to provide some form of instruction while shools are closed?
Not in Pennsylvania. New Jersey is telling all of its schools to develop home-instruction plans and counting that instruction toward the 180-day rule may encourage them to do so.
What about students with special needs?
If a school district isn't providing educational services for the general population, it doesn't have to do so for students with special needs either, Pennsylvania says.
If it does provide some services (online, mailing education material to students' homes, etc.) it must ensure students with disabilities have equal access to that material.
"Whatever decision is made, LEAs must ensure full access to learning for all students, with particular attention to free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities and English as a second language (ESL) services for English Learners," the Pennsylvania department of education says.
New Jersey says any home instruction plan should accommodate a student's IEP "to the most appropriate extent possible" but recognize additional work may be needed when the child returns to the classroom.
What about standardized tests?
As of last week, the federal government hadn't waived the requirement for standardized tests for this spring, but that could change. The PSSA and Keystone tests have been canceled in Pennsylvania.
New Jersey says it is talking with the federal government about providing flexiblity about the testing requirements.
Can my child still get a school meal?
In Pennsylvania, schools must go through the state to get approval to do that, so it's probably best to check with your school about the plan.
Delaware, however, has a useful list of places where you can get school meals. Go here to see it.
New Jersey says it has approval from the federal government for schools to provide meals and that it will provide more information on its plans shortly.