District implements online curriculum

District+implements+online+curriculum

By Richard Li, News Editor

Throughout the last two months, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and the state government have adjusted education guidelines in light of school closings, allowing schools to fulfill their educational requirements through virtual means.

On March 27, two weeks prior to his announcement of the mandatory closure of all K-12 schools in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an emergency school code bill that waived the requirement of 180 instructional school days for the school year. In addition, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera signed an order on April 9 that removed the limit on the number of flexible instruction days, which allow schools to replace traditional classroom instruction with online alternatives when schools are unable to open. The PDE also canceled all state assessments, including PSSAs and Keystones, for the 2019-2020 school year. 

“By taking these actions, the department is providing flexibility in the near term, while signaling that core functions of public education can and will continue,” Rivera said in a press release on April 9.

In response to the closure of all schools and the new state educational guidelines, the district has implemented a distance learning plan in which students may access instructional materials at any time throughout the day to allow as many students as possible to participate. 

“Our asynchronous distance learning plan allows teachers to provide meaningful lessons to students with the added flexibility for students to access and complete lessons in their home environment. Every student’s situation is different, and we recognize that,” Conestoga Assistant Principal and Dean of Students Anthony DiLella said.

While there is no mandatory live classroom instruction, middle and high school students have the option to participate in office hours which provide live sessions with teachers and other students.

A district laptop runs Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is one of the methods teachers have used to implement their online instruction.

Despite the shift to online education for the rest of the school year, class and grade progression will still proceed based on requirements outlined in Conestoga’s program of studies.

“At this point, we do not believe that the distance learning program will affect either grade or class progression. However, we do anticipate that when we return to face-to-face instruction, teachers will take some extra time to assess exactly where their students are in their learning so that their needs can best be met,” said Wendy Towle, director of curriculum, instruction, staff development and planning.

Moving forward, the district is also examining the possible implementation of flexible instruction days in the future, as the Pennsylvania Legislature’s Act 64 of 2019 allows flexible instruction days to replace instructional days when schools are unable to open due to other reasons such as inclement weather. 

“Currently, we are exploring submitting the required application to PDE to take advantage of the flexible instructional days opportunity. If we believe it is a good option, given what we now know about distance learning in T/E, we will present the idea to the Education Committee before the end of this year,” Towle said.

As T/E continues to provide instruction for students, Towle is glad to see how the school community has bonded despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This is an unprecedented situation – one that many of us could have never imagined only a few months ago. Even though I know we would all prefer to be meeting face-to-face, it is remarkable how our students, our parents and our staff have worked together to support one another and to make distance learning a valuable experience. The care and concern for one another that has been exhibited throughout our school community is just another reason I am T/E Proud.”


Richard Li can be reached at [email protected]