Conemaugh Valley High School

Conemaugh Valley High School is shown on Jan. 6, 2017.

In order to assist Pennsylvania schools in these unprecedented times legislators worked to pass Senate Bill 751 Wednesday which eases requirements for the current school year, including elimination of the need for 180 days of instruction.

“It’s what’s in the best interest of our students in our great commonwealth,” Senate Education Chair Wayne Langerholc said.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate passed the bill unanimously moving it on to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk.

Aside from eliminating the 180-day requirement, which means schools will just have to make up the missed days, the bill gives state Education Department Secretary Pedro Rivera the authority over a number of matters.

That includes the ability to close all school entities until the pandemic threat is over, increase the number of flexible instruction days and waive a number of other requirements including those for career and technical programs, pre-kindergarten and student teachers.

The bill also waives the NIMS assessment, NOCTI exam and guarantees payment of school employees and pension credits during the closure.

If Wolf approves the legislation, schools are expected to make an effort to offer some form of alternative education during the closure and contact parents or guardians of students with individualized education plans to let them know the school’s plan to provide the students with an equal education.

“This bill is a template as we continue to navigate uncharted waters,” Langerholc said.

He described the issue as “fluid” and said the legislature is still working “diligently” to find solutions so schools can continue to operate.

Langerholc said the work put into this bill is a testament to the dedication of the general assembly, adding that everything came together in less than two weeks.

Wolf is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of the week at the latest.

The Pennsylvania State Education Association commended the adoption of the legislation.

“The coronavirus pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for our schools, students and staff,” education association President Rich Askey said in a release. “This legislation reflects a shared commitment among education stakeholders, lawmakers and the Wolf administration to keep students safe and healthy while ensuring their educational needs are met.”

All of the aforementioned adjustments were made as an amendment to SB 751, which had been moving around the state government since June 2019.

The bill itself is an amendment to the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949.

It replaces the current teacher rating system with a revised version and adds more weight to the observation portion of the score.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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