State rep. wants to withhold money from schools that don’t fully reopen in fall

This Week in Pennsylvania

DERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Many schools are slowly opening back up, but one state representative wants to speed things up by holding up money for schools that don’t get kids back into the classroom.

Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) believes it’s safe for kids to be back in school full-time, and if districts don’t fully reopen come the fall, he wants to cut off state funding.

Superintendent Joe McFarland says Derry Township is sticking with a hybrid model this year with half of elementary students in the morning and half in the afternoon five days a week.

“If we would bring everybody back full that wanted to come back, that means kids get a new teacher. Kids get a new classroom here for the last nine weeks,” McFarland said. “We did not feel that that was in the best interests of young learners.

For certain middle and high school students, there’s now a phased return to four days a week in-person.

“What we’ve been doing is identifying students who are struggling academically, who are failing one or more core classes or in danger of not proceeding to the next grade or not graduating,” McFarland said.

Everyone else can be in the hybrid model of only two days a week at school.

“We will look at where and how to the greatest extent possible, we can bring back more students that want or need to be back,” McFarland said.

But Saylor says that’s not good enough. He wants to require all school districts, all community colleges, technical schools and universities to be back full-time or risk losing state funding.

“50% of the schools are back in real-time with full-time classes and we’ve seen no major outbreaks or problems with that,” Saylor said. “We’ve seen instances where two or three students have come down with COVID. Schools have dealt with that.”

Saylor says by the fall, most teachers and administrators should be vaccinated.

“For the economic growth of our commonwealth, for the health and safety of these students, whether it’s mental health issues, drug issues, things like that, it’s critical that we meet those needs,” Saylor said.

Derry Township is planning to be back full-time next year, But McFarland doesn’t like the idea of a mandate tied to crucial state funding.

“The decisions have largely been (left) to the schools and the local school boards and now all of the sudden it’s a state decision so that’s frustrating and disheartening,” McFarland said.

Saylor says no one would be forced to go back, but parents should have a choice.

“Some of these school boards are not listening to parents and not listening to the students. They’re not doing their jobs,” Saylor said. “And when school districts fail to do the job, then the state has to step in and protect those students.”

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