Lewisburg graduates encouraged to think different

Lewisburg Area High School graduates Izzy DeVett and Cassie Clark pose for a photo before the start of Lewisburg's 2019 graduation.

HARRISBURG — As schools across the state cobble together lessons for students told to stay home, state officials are being tight-lipped about the long-term plan for the school year and what it means for graduating seniors.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern,” said Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

“We’re waiting for the foot to drop” when Wolf announces whether schools will open at all this spring.

While Wolf’s statewide stay-at-home order isn’t scheduled to end until April 30 at the earliest, the governor hasn’t set a date for when schools could reopen. Schools in Pennsylvania have been closed since March 16.

Eric Levis, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said that schools have been encouraged to seek ways to allow graduating seniors to graduate on-time despite the school closing.

Schools have been told to “provide all reasonable latitude for students to graduate on time,” he said.

Wolf has already used an executive order to waive the requirement that schools complete 180 days of classes in a school year, due to the coronavirus school closure.

Determining whether or how students earn credit for courses is the responsibility of the local school district, according to the Department of Education guidance.

“If graduating seniors have not completed their classes for the year due to the closure, illness, family illness, or related COVID-19 issues, the Department suggests (school districts) use discretion to determine whether the students have completed sufficient course content to satisfy the (school district's) established policy for course completion and academic proficiency,” according to the state guidance.

While students aren’t allowed to go to school, most schools have launched online classes, though the state has provided leeway in terms of what that entails.

Schools have been told that they can seek to offer “planned instruction” which is more closely like the type of education they would offer if the students were in-school. Or, they can offer what the Department of Education has described as “enrichment and review.”

Levis said he didn’t know how many schools have been trying to offer planned instruction online.

“That information is still be collected,” he said.

DiRocco said that if the school closure drags on more schools will likely seek to begin offering coursework more like planned instruction, especially for the graduating seniors who won’t be back in the fall to catch up, he said.

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