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Pa. Legislature Considers Granting Waivers To Storm-Shuttered School Districts

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(Capitol dome, Harrisburg, Pa.   File photo) Tony Romeo
  Tony Romeo is Harrisburg bureau chief for KYW Newsradio...
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By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – With some schools in southeastern Pennsylvania closed for a week now due to Hurricane Sandy, spokesmen say state legislative leaders would consider relaxing the 180-day requirement for affected school districts.

Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller says the department has the discretion to grant a waiver for individual school buildings within a district.

“The district can submit a request for a waiver if a building has been closed. But if the entire district has been closed due to severe weather, it is expected for the district to make up those days.”

Eller says the department used to grant weather waivers for entire districts.

“There was push-back from the General Assembly because the law specifically required districts to complete 180 days, which is now why over the past decade or so, there’s only been waivers granted when buildings are closed within a district, not when an entire district is closed.”

Eller says only the legislature can relax the rule for entire districts, and Erik Arneson – spokesman for the Senate majority leader – says that is a possibility.

“We’re starting to hear from some school districts who believe they might be interested in having the 180-day rule modified. That is something that we’ll take a look at once we have all the final data.”

Arneson says all the data will likely include what kind of winter the region has.

“If we go through the winter, and it’s mild and schools miss very few days, that would obviously mitigate against.”

Conversely, Arneson a harsh winter would increase the chances for a waiver.

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