Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter
Dear Legal Mailbag:
With all we learned during the pandemic, we are certainly capable of pivoting to remote learning anytime we have an emergency closure (e.g., snow day, power outage). I was relishing the prospect of not having to make up such emergency closure days and getting out on time at the end of the year. I was disappointed, therefore, to hear an ugly rumor that remote learning on such days will still not be considered one of the 180 school sessions required by law. It seems ridiculous that we cannot employ the technology on which we relied for days, weeks and even months during the pandemic to provide continuity of instruction during such emergency closure days. I hope that Legal Mailbag can tell us that we can indeed rely on remote learning to count as a school session. Those added-on days in June, particular on hot, sunny days, are certainly not conducive to effective instruction.
Say It Ain’t So
Legal Mailbag lives to serve, but must share disappointing news with you. As of this writing, there is no general authority to consider a day of remote learning a “school session.”
Last year, the General Assembly established a limited opportunity for school districts to consider remote learning a school session. As provided by new Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-4w, starting this July 1, 2022, school districts may consider a remote learning day as one of the required school sessions, but only for grades 9-12, and only if the following conditions are met:
- The remote learning opportunity must be in compliance with the Standards for Remote Learning 9-12 published by the State Department of Education in February 2022.
- The board of education must adopt a policy “regarding the requirements for student attendance during remote learning, which shall (A) be in compliance with the Department of Education’s guidance on student attendance during remote learning, and (B) count the attendance of any student who spends not less than one-half of the school day during such instruction engaged in (i) virtual classes, (ii) virtual meetings, (iii) activities on time-logged electronic systems, and (iv) the completion and submission of assignments.”
Presumably, many school districts will adopt such policies and take advantage of this opportunity to provide remote learning in some situations. This opportunity may be especially helpful in providing high school students access to specialized courses that would otherwise be unaffordable because of the limited enrollment or unavailable because the district cannot find qualified teachers for the course. However, this limited opportunity to count days of remote instruction is limited to the high school level, and emergency closure days will still require a make-up day at the end of the school year for grades K-8.
In the recently-concluded legislative session, the General Assembly expanded this opportunity, but you must be patient. Starting with the 2024-2025 school year, school districts will likely be able to follow this model to provide remote learning on emergency closure days for grades K-12, namely:
- The remote learning opportunity must be in compliance with standards for remote learning for these grades that will be written by the State Department of Education.
- The board of education must adopt a new policy similar to that previously described for 9-12 remote learning, namely, a policy “regarding the requirements for student attendance during remote learning, which shall (A) be in compliance with the Department of Education’s guidance on student attendance during remote learning, and (B) count the attendance of any student who spends not less than one-half of the school day during such instruction engaged in (i) virtual classes, (ii) virtual meetings, (iii) activities on time-logged electronic systems, and (iv) the completion and submission of assignments.”
Legal Mailbag describes this new opportunity as “likely” (as opposed to being the law) because as of this writing Substitute Senate Bill 1, which contains these provisions, is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
Assuming that the Governor does sign this bill into law, an additional condition contained in Substitute Senate Bill 1 will apply to remote learning as currently authorized for grades 9-12 as well as for remote instruction that will be authorized for grades K-8 in 2024. Specifically, when Substitute Senate Bill 1 becomes law, the policy that boards of education are required to adopt will have to include a provision that “prohibits the provision of dual instruction as part of remote learning,” which is defined as “the simultaneous instruction by a teacher to students in-person in the classroom and students engaged in remote learning.”
Legal Mailbag wonders who wanted to add this new restriction on remote learning . . . .