School closing COVID-19

A school bus leaves Mountville Elementary School at the end of the school day Friday, March 13, 2020. 

Have a question about schools being closed for the next two weeks?

For many aspects of the situation, there are no definite answers.

Many concerns regarding how long the statewide shutdown of public schools ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf last week might last and how it might affect proms, graduations and other end-of-year events are still unclear.

Here’s what we do know and don’t know about the shutdown.

How long will it last?

Schools are expected to reopen March 30. But judging by the way this situation has escalated in recent days – the governor ordered a statewide shutdown Monday afternoon as coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania surpassed 75 – it wouldn’t be a surprise if schools remained closed into April.

How will the time be made up?

Wolf has said schools that don’t meet the 180-school day requirement won’t be penalized. At the end of the year, schools will simply need to report any shortfall to the state. So, as of now, school districts don’t have to worry about making days up.

Will this extend the school year?

No – not yet, at least. The state Department of Education hasn’t issued much guidance on this. So, for now, dates for summer break, graduations and proms largely remain unchanged. At least one school district, however, has postponed its prom. In an update posted online Monday, Pequea Valley announced its prom was postponed, but the decision could be reevaluated down the road.

Could schools start teaching remotely?

Lancaster County public schools currently don’t have immediate plans to provide online instruction – as many colleges and universities have done – apart from offering voluntary resources for parents and children to use at home. The state hasn’t required it, either. Lancaster County school officials say it would be difficult to provide an equitable education considering the wide range of student needs.

Schools would need to get approval to participate in the state’s Flexible Instructional Day program – meant for snow days and other emergencies – if they wanted to fill the school closure gap with online instruction. No county school district applied for the 2019-20 school year.

How are students who rely on school meals being fed?

Most school districts have announced plans to make sure students, regardless of their free or reduced lunch status, are fed by offering “grab and go” meals in the community. Pennsylvania received approval from the federal government to allow schools to do so.

Is standardized testing still required? 

Yes. The U.S. Department of Education has the ability to waive statewide assessments, but it hasn’t done so. Currently PSSA testing is scheduled to begin April 20, and Keystone testing is scheduled to begin May 11.