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Message from the Secretary of Education - March 27, 2020

Posted on March 28, 2020

March 27, 2020

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Colleague,

The past few weeks have presented school communities with circumstances beyond imagination. With no precedent from our lifetimes to work from, you’ve overcome so much while continuing to serve students, staff, and families. Thank you for your courage, commitment, and perseverance.

As such, I’m very aware that Pennsylvania’s heightened mitigation efforts have created new complexities to daily routines and operations. Please know that these efforts are intended to keep everyone safe, home, and healthy.

I have a few updates to share since I was last in touch.

Earlier today, Governor Wolf signed an emergency School Code bill.  The Department was pleased to contribute to this bipartisan initiative which passed both chambers unanimously.  This legislation, now Act 13 of 2020, provides a basis for fiscal stabilization for the education community by maintaining funding for schools, protects our educator workforce, allows this year’s cohort of student teachers to bypass a 12-week training requirement, and pauses other statutory provisions that are unworkable amid emergency response efforts.  And while the Governor and I had previously committed that no school would be penalized for an inability to meet the 180 instructional day requirement, Act 13 officially waives this requirement for the 2019-2020 school year.

The Department now is engaged in an ambitious endeavor to establish a user-friendly process for guiding, receiving, reviewing, and responding to any additional requests for waivers that an LEA may want to submit consistent with provisions of Act 13.  The Department will publish detailed guidance, including additional information on waiver relief, in the coming days.

Speaking of guidance, we updated information and guidance on federal programs, early learning, and essential personnel on our website. Please continue to regularly check our website (education.pa.gov) for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

One of our most significant milestones this week was working alongside our 29 intermediate units and three regional PaTTANs to develop resources and line up technical assistance opportunities to help you create and implement Continuity of Education plans. Many of you have already or will soon begin working with your local IU on your plan, and I wholeheartedly support and appreciate these efforts.

As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, trust that I continue to advocate on your behalf. I regularly connect with Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine to share information and feedback, and to obtain information that I can, in turn, share with you—which I will continue to do as often as possible.

Last but certainly not least, it’s important for you to take time for yourselves. You cannot effectively serve your community if you’re not effectively caring for yourself and your family.

Thanks again for all that you do in support of students, families, and schools in Pennsylvania.

-Pedro

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