Get our newsletters

Local districts sitting out state’s flexible learning plan


Citing several challenges, local school districts are defending their decision not to participate in the state’s flexible instruction plan.

Act 64, signed by Gov. Tom Wolf last July, allows districts to use up to five days for online instruction during the academic year in case a school closes because of extreme weather or a catastrophic event. So far, 72 out of 500 districts across the commonwealth have been approved by the Department of Education to implement programs; none, however, are in Bucks or neighboring counties.

Worksheets and packets, so-called “busy work,” do not fit the state’s definition of online learning, and districts must demonstrate how they will accommodate students who lack access to technology and have tech staff on standby should issues arise.

Quakertown Community School Board had endorsed an application for cyber days in 2015, but since then attitudes have shifted. Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards said in an email that “the district has more than 900 students with IEPs or who would require specialized services that we would not be able to provide in a home environment. We would also have to bargain the impact with our teachers union.”

Ryan Wieand, a teacher at Quakertown Elementary and head of the union, said he shared the same concerns about students with individual education programs. “Many of them need specific supports and accommodations that cannot be provided online. Additionally, teachers are constantly providing differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all of their students, which again, can be difficult to do outside of the classroom.”

In a district where more than a third of students are classified economically disadvantaged, Wieand expressed concern about access to computers and said that until issues such as this were addressed “districts across the state are wise not to jump on the idea of flexible instructional days.”

Angela Linch, a spokesperson for Central Bucks School District, defended that district’s decision not to participate. Linch added the district was confident it could meet the instructional needs of all students if schools were shut for several days, and she noted that the limitations of online instruction presented challenges for students.

Both Central Bucks and Palisades School District in Kintnersville haven’t ruled out future participation. “We will continue to discuss a possible future implementation of Gov. Wolf’s flexible instructional days,” Linch added.

Donna Holmes, a spokesperson for Palisades, said a team of administrators is currently reviewing the pros and the concerns of the state plan. “They are looking at the components of the application process, as well as gathering data and information from other districts throughout the state.”

All three districts have makeup days built into their school calendars, and add instructional days at the end of the school year if necessary.