So far, two Fayette County school districts are on board with a new state program aimed at helping school officials avoid closing school due to inclement weather and other factors by allowing students to instead complete their instructional day online.
The state’s Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program was signed into law over the summer and allows Pennsylvania schools to afford the opportunity to students to learn from home rather than canceling school completely for snow days or other unexpected closures.
Both Uniontown and Connellsville school districts have discussed the possibility of applying to the state Department of Education for approval to operate the program, and we are hopeful that we see more local school boards at least explore this option to help reduce changes in school calendars that could result in students attending school well into the end of June.
As with any new program, there will most certainly be headaches in implementing a change with as much impact as this will have, but we can’t help but believe that once a plan is streamlined into place, the benefits will be well worth it.
Earlier this month, Uniontown Area School Board voted in favor of starting the process of working through the requirements of the program, which include opening school buildings, staffing nurses and teachers, providing cybersecurity and effectively communicating with the community as to whether the district will have an FID or traditional snow cancellation day.
Just this week, board members in Connellsville Area School District voted to opt into “cyber now days” by applying as well. Board members there cited not only a more structured instructional year for students and their families, but also the opportunity for some cost savings with transportation.
For school districts across western Pennsylvania, winter weather has always been a concern — especially in the Uniontown and Connellsville districts where some students travel to school from elevated mountainous regions that tend to see harsher conditions. Throughout the county and region, school officials are often tasked with the decision to close school or send students home early, and are forced to err on the side of caution for student safety. FIDs would take the guesswork out of it, with no harm done if the weather reports change or have some inaccuracies.
Our districts have been working over the last years to keep up with the technological advancements and demands of the world. Many of those strategies, like student-issued Chromebooks, are already in place. Why not use that technology to the fullest to make the FID program a success and reap the multitude of other benefits it could bring?
We think the program is worth at least a discussion at the next school board meeting.