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Public school teachers will be paid during statewide school shutdown

Pennsylvania state lawmakers this week authorized legislation to ensure public school employees will be paid during the mandated closure of education facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, originally intended as a means to review and revise teacher evaluation measures in the state’s public education system, now waives the requirement for schools to be in session at least 180 days during the school year, provides continuity plans for schools and gives the authority to suspend routine annual standardized assessments to state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill into law on Wednesday.

The bill requires schools to make a “good faith effort” to offer continuity of education to students using “alternative means” during the period of closure and compels them to submit contingency plans to the education department for review. It ensures any state-subsidized charter school will continue to receive public support based on enrollment as of March 13, 2020.

The state Department of Education moved earlier this month to cancel April 20 PSSA testing, PASA testing and May 11 Keystone exams due to “unprecedented conditions” caused by the spread of COVID-19. As of Friday morning, 2,218 cases of the virus have been confirmed by health department officials.

“Our school communities are operating within unprecedented conditions,” Rivera said. “Schools are making extraordinary efforts to remain connected to students and families, to provide food service and to put appropriate systems in place to continue student learning. Assessments should not be the focus of school leaders right now.”

Justin Henry is the regional reporter for the Central Penn Business Journal and the Lehigh Valley Business. He can be reached at jhenry@bridgetowermedia.com.

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