Act 4 of 2016, Section 1505, signed into law on February 16, 2016, allows the Secretary of Education to issue a weather, safety, or health related emergency declaration for a school entity or a charter school entity or on a county or statewide basis. Under the Act, the Secretary of Education has the discretionary power to issue an “emergency declaration,” which will then permit the affected school entity options to otherwise satisfy the 180 instructional day requirement.
School attendance is a critical factor influencing student achievement, and severe weather and emergencies that necessitate the closing of schools take away important instructional time. The Act was designed to assist school entities as a last resort, in the face of “unpredictable” emergencies – not typical winter-weather closures. Thus, it remains the responsibility of all school administrators to build into their school calendars a sufficient number of “make up” or “snow” days to address winter-weather closures that are normal for that entity.
An affected school district must request an emergency declaration, on a form developed by the Department. All requests for an emergency declaration must be applied for through School Services. Each request will be reviewed in a timely manner.
In determining whether an “emergency declaration” is appropriate, the Department, as detailed on the required form, will consider whether the school entity has:
- Consulted a minimum of five (5) years of data on the number of cancellation days built into the school calendar and the number of cancellation days actually used; and
- Used that data to inform its decision on the number of cancellation days built into the current year’s school calendar;
- Documented a willingness to add at least two additional days to the end of the school year after built-in cancellation days are exhausted; and
- Outlined the extenuating factors impacting the school entity’s calendar.
After the Secretary has made the emergency declaration, a school entity may satisfy the 180 instructional days per school year (by June 30) requirement in statute by:
- Approving, by a majority vote of the governing board of the school entity, a school year with a minimum of 900 hours of instruction at the elementary level and 990 hours of instruction at the secondary level in lieu of 180 days; or
- Approving, by a majority vote of the governing board of the school entity, the scheduling of additional instructional days on not more than one Saturday per month to complete 180 instructional days, or 900 hours at the elementary level and 990 hours at the secondary level. Student excusals for certain reasons are included in this option.
To receive more information and to obtain a form for requesting an Emergency Declaration, please contact the School Services Office at ra-PDE-SchoolService@pa.gov.
 The issuance of a “state of emergency” by the Governor is not in itself the equivalent of an “emergency declaration” by the Secretary.