WEST CHESTER (March 13, 2020) – State Senator Andy Dinniman provided comments today on Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)’s decision to shut down all schools across Pennsylvania for 10 days, effective on Monday, March 16, in response to the growing outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“I applaud Governor Wolf’s decision to shut down the schools. COVID-19 does not stop at school district, county, or state borders,” Dinniman, who serves as the Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “We have received calls from parents, teachers, and Superintendents across our district and the state. The time to act is now, and I am glad the governor did so.”
In a letter to Dinniman on Thursday evening, March 12, George Fiore, Executive Director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, spoke on behalf of Superintendents in the county, calling for the closure of all Chester County schools.
“The Montgomery County closure has made an already difficult situation even worse. It would be beneficial to consider closing Chester County schools as well,” Fiore said. “Anything you can do to mandate the closure of Chester County before an outbreak would be strongly supported and welcomed.”
Dinniman has also put forward two bills, SB1094 and SB1095, to aid school districts across Pennsylvania in response to the growing closures due to COVID-19 and which expand upon Governor Wolf’s 10-day measure. These bills will be available by Monday, March 16 for the senate to consider.
Dinniman’s first bill would allow school districts which must stay closed past the 10 days due to COVID-19 to move ahead with online learning or alternate methods of education. These schools would not have to request a waiver to do so from the PDE. Consideration of a waiver would likely delay the action of the school district to make fast and effective decisions in regard to closure and alternate education.
Dinniman’s second bill calls for the cancellation of the state PSSA and Keystone exams for this school year and requires the PDE to ask the federal government for a waiver of federal accountability regulations.
“The time to end 10 days of testing is now, so that school districts can focus on instruction,” Dinniman said. “Any test results which come from schools that face long periods of closure may well be invalid and not an adequate measure of student growth.”
On March 12, the United States Department of Education released a fact sheet on the impact of COVID-19 on state-run tests in schools across the nation, which states:
“Due to the unique circumstances that may arise as a result of COVID-19 … it may not be feasible for a State to administer some or all of its assessments.”
“The real test our schools and their students are facing is the continuation of learning in this difficult and unprecedented environment – not standardized tests,” Dinniman said.