WEST CHESTER (September 1, 2020) – Pennsylvania school districts that provide transportation to both charter and nonpublic students will be reimbursed regardless of whether those districts are utilizing a remote or hybrid education model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to updated guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), state Senator Andy Dinniman said.
Prior to this development, PDE’s official website indicated that school districts were not required to continue to nonpublic school transportation services while public schools were closed due to COVID-19 response efforts.
Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said he was pleased that PDE clarified this position and this week acted in accordance with state statutory language and past practices.
“For many students in Chester County and across the Commonwealth, this is the first week of school. I know a lot of parents of brick-and-mortar charter students, as well as those attending in nonpublic, private, religious, and parochial schools, were concerned about transportation and rightfully so,” he said. “Under the latest guidance, transportation and reimbursement to the district are required for charter students, regardless of whether a district is providing transportation for its own (public) students. And school districts providing transportation for nonpublic students will be reimbursed under the current statute.”
The updated guidance, made available yesterday, cites:
- Section 1726-A of the School Code, stating that school districts are required to provide transportation to a charter school for resident students enrolled in that charter school.
- Section 1361 of the School Code, stating that a school district that provides transportation to its resident public school students must make “identical provision” for the free transportation of resident students attending nonpublic schools in accordance with the geographic parameters set forth in the law. Any such transportation is required to be provided during regular school hours on such dates and periods that the nonprofit nonpublic school is in regular session, according to the school calendar officially adopted by the nonpublic school.
Dinniman said he has been in discussions and regular correspondence on this issue with officials from the Pennsylvania School Bus Association, including partners at Krapf Bus Companies and Wolfington Body Company.
“I’m glad that PDE updated its stance and made a decision that is in line with the school code. For parents and families of all students, including those attending in-person classes in charter and nonpublic schools, the uncertainty of the pandemic coupled with the start of the school year is stressful enough,” he said. “I hope this provides some relief and assurance during an unprecedented situation. I would also advise school districts to consult with their solicitors when navigating these requirements and statutory language.”
Dinniman added that school districts are also required to provide transportation for special education students attending in-person classes. In addition, he said that only a few districts in Chester County were not providing transportation for students attending in-person career, technical and vocational school classes, but he hoped that they would resume doing so in light of the updated guidance.