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Pennsylvania District to Have 5 Remote Learning Days Per Year

Carlisle Area School District is seeking state approval for a districtwide flexible instructional day program starting this fall that would give them options for dealing with snow days or other building closures.

(TNS) — Carlisle Area School Board is set to renew a program of remote learning that was in place before COVID-19 shut down in-person classroom instruction in March 2020.

The board could vote this Thursday on a statement to affirm a district-wide flexible instructional day program for school years 2022-23 through 2024-25.

The board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the large group instruction room of the Fowler building of Carlisle High School.

The statement is part an application process to seek approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for up to five flexible instruction days to count toward the mandatory 180 days of instruction.

If approved, the program will give the district the ability to use flexible instruction days due to inclement weather or some other type of widespread building closure that makes remote learning a viable option.

"It may not be used for every weather event," said Stephanie Douglas, director of digital learning. "We would have to judge how students are reacting and weigh the advantage of using a FID or a make-up day."

A flexible instruction day could be used in cases where a predictable weather event provides enough notice for the district and its families to transition smoothly from in-person to remote instruction, Douglas said.

In August, the district will notify families and post on its website a description of what a flexible instruction day is and how the process will work heading into the school year, she said. This information will include answers to questions that have been frequently asked by parents and families since Carlisle started using flexible instruction days in early April 2015.

The plan is to use pre-recorded messages that will be distributed through email and other methods to advise families that a flexible instruction day is under consideration and then to follow through if one is declared, Douglas said. The advisory would give teachers an opportunity to remind students about how a flexible instruction day works and to make sure that students are taking their devices home.

The application to Department of Education includes a narrative explaining the procedure Carlisle plans to use to track through attendance student participation in remote learning along with a contingency plan on how to deliver instruction for students without internet access.

The program factors in extenuating circumstances that may prevent a student from logging on and participating in a flexible instruction day. These include a loss of electricity, an unexpected relocation, pre-arranged absences or an emergency situation. In such cases, the district will follow established attendance policies and allow the student up to three days to make-up the work.

By offering flexibility to move instruction online, the flexible instruction day allows the district to avoid disruptions to the school calendar and to minimize the need to extend the academic year to compensate for periods of extreme weather, Douglas said. Flexible instruction days also provide students with practice on such fundamental workplace skills as time management and independent learning, she said.

In 2014-15, Carlisle was one of 12 Pennsylvania school districts to receive state approval to stage a flexible day instead of a snow make-up day. Carlisle held that day on April 6, 2015, the Monday after Easter.

Since then, Carlisle received approval for five flexible instruction days per year from 2015-16 onward. The onset of the pandemic in spring 2020 forced a shutdown that required every school district in Pennsylvania to switch to some form of remote instruction for much of the 2020-21 school year.

"We were very blessed as a school district because our students and staff were already used to one-to-one devices," Douglas said.

©2022 The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.