Lancaster County students get to enjoy snow days this year, but others across the state aren’t so lucky.
Seventy-nine of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts are participating in the state’s new flexible instructional day program, which allows schools to provide online instruction when snow or another emergency forces school buildings to close.
But none of the county’s 17 public school districts are participating.
Local school officials say they’re not yet sold on the voluntary program, which was signed into law last year by Gov. Tom Wolf.
“Our best product is when we have teachers and students face-to-face throughout the learning process,” Pequea Valley Superintendent Erik Orndorff said. “We could do a cyber day but for us, it wouldn’t be our best product.”
Orndorff expressed concern over the lack of interaction between teachers and students, and the problems that arise when considering students with special needs.
“Learning is a social activity and we want to make sure our learners are engaged and involved,” Orndorff said.
Marcie Brody, a spokeswoman for Manheim Township School District, said the district is researching the implications of flexible instructional days.
“There are positives to the concept,” she said. “However there are a lot of considerations too, such as providing parents the right tools to play a key role in the success of a (flexible instructional) day.”
A few of the challenges, Brody said, include ensuring every student has access to online services and resources, constraints for parents who need to send younger children to daycare, and producing online lessons comparable to those of a traditional school day.
It's unclear whether any local schools will participate in the 2020-21 school year, and that includes Hempfield.
Mike Bromirski, Hempfield's superintendent, said he liked the idea of flexible instructional days but agreed there are “a lot of factors to work through” before potentially implementing them. He said a team will explore the idea this year and provide the school board with an update in late spring.