SV school calendar includes flex days

August 14, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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JACKSON TWP — The Seneca Valley School Board last week approved an updated 2019-20 calendar to include flexible instructional days.

The district has used flexible instructional days, or FIDS, since the 2014-15 school year as one of several districts in a pilot program.

FIDS allow students to work from home on snow days and still get credit for attending school.

In early July, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation approving the use of the days throughout the state. During Monday's school board meeting, Linda Andreassi, director of communications for the district, said the first two snow makeup days of the year would be “traditional” days and are scheduled for Feb. 14 and April 14, 2020.

The third and fourth snow days in the original calendar were removed and replaced with FIDs. Those days — April 9 and May 1 — are now a holiday and regular makeup day, respectively.

Through those moves, the district was able to extend the Thanksgiving break by adding Nov. 27 as a holiday. An Act 80 day is now included on March 16 to allow for staff training on any state mandates passed down throughout the first part of the year. Students will be off on that day.

“Otherwise, March would have been filled,” without any days off for students, Andreassi said.

Additional FIDs could be used in the event of a harsh winter, she added. The first day of school is Aug. 27, and the final day for students K-11 is June 5, 2020. The last day for seniors is May 29.

The board unanimously approved the new calendar Monday, though Superintendent Tracy Vitale said more action will be needed to continue with the program.

Next week, the board will consider approving a formal resolution on FIDs. Vitale said even though the district was in the pilot program, the state Department of Education is requiring all districts to fill out new applications. She said she is confident the district will be given approval, but noted a new wrinkle that will prove challenging to districts statewide.

“We have to figure out how we will provide nursing services on those days,” she said, adding she'll be working over the next week on the application, which must be submitted by the end of August.

Board members, including President James Nickel and Vice President Eric DiTullio, commended Vitale for her work on the pilot program, as well as ensuring the days became a statewide option. She said the work was important, as it is good for both teachers and students.

Vitale said that at least 10 districts have reached out to review Seneca Valley's model for using the days. She said it was important to explain to those officials that there isn't a universal way to implement the days, and each district must create its own plan to meet their needs.

She added the district will continue to fine-tune its plan, including focusing on how to make the work done on flexible instructional days “seamless” with in-school lessons.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.