DASD superintendent clarifies school schedule statement; Governor extends school closures indefinitely

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced today that he is extending the school closures for an indefinite period as the state continues its fight against COVID-19. Districts in our area are gearing up to go online. Last week, DASD Superintendent Wendy Benton released a statement concerning the district’s response to the closure. In a follow up statement released yesterday to parents, Benton provided some clarification on that plan. Here is the complete text:

I apologize for calling on a Sunday and for the length of this message but I’ve been informed of a few misconceptions circulating in our community that I would like to address. As the superintendent of this district, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has informed me that I have an affirmative obligation to educate the students in our community. When the Pennsylvania Department of Education released a statement that they will not penalize school districts that fail to meet the minimum 180-day requirements as a result of COVID-19 response efforts, it does not mean they waived a child’s right to an education. It means that if a school district cannot meet the 180 day requirement, they will not reduce the funding that we depend on to educate our students. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has charged the superintendents with the responsibility to make every attempt through a good faith effort to educate all students during the school closure until June 30. Our plan is not to consume your summer; our plan is to educate your child. The mission to educate is so important, that even if a stay at home order is issued by the Governor, essential staff in the school district are still able to report because feeding and educating our students is essential. 

There’s no waiver of a set number of days. At the end of the school year, I am required to report the number of instructional days and instructional hours our students received to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Despite all that our children have lost, we would never develop a plan to deprive them of their education as well. Even though challenging, we are committed to educating them. 

An online instructional platform is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We understand that not every child will be able to login for homeroom to say the Pledge of Allegiance from their home. That’s ok. We are intentionally planning a way to teach your child with as much flexibility as we can possibly provide to your schedule. 

No one wants our students to miss out on summer vacation. This is exactly the reason why students will have the option to complete their schoolwork 24 hours a day. If they are completing work ahead of schedule or perhaps on a Saturday, we want to give them credit for that time. 

Our plans are not designed for students to have 6 hours of screen time per day. Not every activity will require your child to be in front of a screen. 

We also recognize that 24% of our students require special education services. We are developing plans to provide services accordingly to meet the needs of our students. If we cannot provide all necessary services to these students through a virtual platform, we will make it up to them as soon as our schools reopen. 

I understand that this is a stressful time for all of us. I understand this is a very different approach to education. My team of over 700 is committed to educating your children and our students. Our students and your children will receive the greatest benefit through your support and cooperation. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education just released the continuity of education planning template late Thursday night. Dr. Matson and I have it nearly completed and we will post it on the 

district website for your review. We will let you know when it’s available. Our goal is to provide planned instruction, using our district curriculum, to provide continuity of education to our students until our schools reopen. 

  1. “Provide enrichment and review.” As defined by the PA Department of Education, “consists of informal activities to reinforce or extend students’ prior learning. No standards and skills are addressed through Enrichment and Review”. Participation is optional. 2. “Provide planned instruction.” As defined by the PA Department of Education, “is formal teaching and learning similar to that which occurs in a classroom setting. Within this process, teachers use planned courses of instruction of new concepts/skills aligned to grade level standards. Teachers assess the learning of their students and make adjustments to instruction based upon student progress. In order to receive grade and credit, students must attend regularly and complete the course requirement.” 

The only thing holding us back is the delivery of the hot spots. We received one shipment on Friday and we are expecting the second shipment tomorrow. We will begin soon. 

When you are presented with negativity and doubt, please remember that we are educators that want to educate your children. We don’t receive any more or any less funding. The true gain is that the students in our community are educated. None of us asked for the challenges that we face, but we are up to the challenge. Thank you. 

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