WEST CHESTER (June 10, 2020) – State Senator Andy Dinniman, Minority Chair of the Senate Education Committee, responded to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) preliminary guidance for schools, colleges, and universities to resume in-person instruction.
Under the guidance, in-person instruction and activities for schools located in Yellow Phase regions, like Chester County, can begin July 1. Colleges and universities in the Yellow Phase were permitted to start reopening June 5.
PDE has provided a template as a reopening tool, which includes requirements that schools and universities meet CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines, including measures calling for social distancing, mask-wearing, and increased sanitization and cleaning procedures. However, each school or university is tasked with developing and customizing their opening to their unique situation.
In a recent meeting with Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, Dinniman raised three key concerns.
“Guidance and guidelines are not nearly enough to support our state’s schools,” Dinniman said. “Schools cannot simply return to normal after what has occurred, in the face of what may yet still occur regarding a potential resurgence of the virus in the fall. We need to provide our schools with the resources necessary to succeed and prosper now and in the future.”
Dinniman’s first concern focused on the timeline of when schools can reopen. While the decision can now be made from each school board, the senator urged that schools open as early as possible – even in early August – to account for a possible resurgence in late autumn, around Thanksgiving.
“Opening schools sooner will give students and educators more time for in-person learning before a possible second wave of COVID-19,” Dinniman said.
His second concern centers on providing additional help and resources to students who have encountered difficulty and challenges with online learning. While some districts and regions had a more prepared framework for online learning, other districts – such as those in Philadelphia – lacked the necessary funding and resources to aid students and families in the transition to online learning.
Finally, Dinniman focused on how well schools can regulate and enforce CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines with their current resources. He focused on two primary topics – the possibility of in-person and online education rotation, and that of socially distant school bus transportation. Implementing and enforcing such measures would undoubtedly result in a significant financial cost on schools, school districts, and taxpayers.
“I voted against the most recent proposed budget because it offers schools the exact same level of support that we provided for the 2019-2020 school year,” Dinniman said. “We can talk as much as we want about how the world’s changed, but if we don’t give our schools the resources to change their practices as well, are we not setting them up for failure?”
“Change starts from somewhere, and it should start right here in the legislature. It’s time we cut our expenses and add these funds to increase state support for our schools,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman concluded, “With so many citizens experiencing possible mortgage foreclosures and senior citizens losing significant value in their portfolios and dividends of which they depend for income, it is very troublesome and unfair for school districts to add increased property tax burdens. Which is why, inherently, the change must come from somewhere else. It must come from us – the state legislature.”