PERRYOPOLIS — The Frazier School District has opted to apply for a new state program designed for schools to avoid closures due to inclement weather and other factors by allowing students to instead complete coursework at home.
The school board on Monday approved for the district to apply to the state Department of Education for approval to operate a Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program during the 2019-20 school year.
The district must develop and submit an FID plan to the state. Superintendent Dr. Bill Henderson said Frazier will primarily utilize the Google Classroom platform during flexible instructional days to deliver instruction.
The district will make accommodations for students who do not have home internet access, Henderson said.
The FID program was signed into law over the summer and allows Pennsylvania schools to give students the opportunity to learn from home rather than canceling school completely for snow days or other unexpected closures. Districts can use flexible instructional days only five times per school year. Flexible instructional days can include online or offline learning.
Henderson said Frazier officials were in contact with school districts that participated in an FID pilot program last school year.
“They seemed to say it worked OK for them through the pilot. It will be a learning experience for us, but we can learn from other districts that have done it and be aware of things that worked or did not work for them,” said Henderson. “We’re hoping to have a smooth process, but, with anything, there may be some issues that we have to address.”
Earlier this month, both the Connellsville Area and Uniontown Area school districts opted into the program.
Connellsville officials said flexible instructional days could be a valuable tool to prevent the school calendar from extending into June to make up for weather-related or other unexpected cancellation days.
At Uniontown, however, school officials said they will continue to explore the feasibility of implementing the program while awaiting response from the state regarding the district’s application status.
According to Uniontown Superintendent Dr. Charles Machesky, on days designated for flexible instruction, the district is obligated to open school buildings, staff nurses and teachers, maintain individualized education programs (IEPs), document attendance, provide cyber security and tech support and ensure students are receiving five hours of daily instruction, regardless of whether students attend school or stay home.
The district would have to communicate to the school community whether it is conducting a flexible instructional day or canceling school for a traditional weather day.
In addition, the district would need to enact memorandums of understanding with various employee groups and contractors, including teachers, secretaries, custodial-maintenance staff, cafeteria staff and busing companies.
Schools will receive notification regarding their applications by Nov. 1. If accepted, the FID program is in place for a three-year period and may be renewed.