Council Rock School District Plans For Flexible Instructional Days

Only situations involving extended school closures, such as extreme weather and other crises, would necessitate the usage of these days.

The Chancellor Center, which is the headquarters for the Council Rock School District, in Newtown Borough.
Credit: Brett Duffey/

At a special June meeting, the Council Rock School Board voted to grant permission to the district’s administration to apply for five flexible instructional days each year for the next three school years starting this fall.

The flexible instruction days would entail required asynchronous work provided to students by their teachers on the district’s online platforms. Elementary students would be given assignments on Google Classroom while Canvas would be utilized by middle and high school students.

Director of Elementary Education Nicole Crawford and Director of Secondary Education Al Funk stated that the days would only be used in cases of prolonged school closures like severe weather events and other emergencies.

Additionally, Council Rock administrators said they would also consider using the days in years with especially bad winters where the district exceeds its built-in snow day total of eight days causing the calendar to stretch into late June. However, any use of the flexible days would be in consultation with Superintendent Dr. Andrew Sanko, the administration, and the school board.

“The priority of the administration of Council Rock is to keep students in school. We are coming before you this evening to simply ask that this be an option should we need it in the future,” said Crawford.

She added that Council Rock last submitted an application for the flexible days to the Pennsylvania Department of Education during the 2020-21 school year, and because districts must reapply every three years, another decision on the matter was needed. 

“We do not foresee utilizing these days for any kind of one-off situation, so it would not be utilized for a single regular school closure. Say there was a power outage at Sol Feinstone, that would not be the intention of the flexible instructional days. This would be a district-wide use only for extreme weather events and the like,” said Funk.

File photo. Credit: Erich Martin/

Crawford explained that the district would have a plan in place for the flexible days in the case that some of Council Rock’s online platforms were not working. For example, she said that hard-copy assignments could be sent home in advance and teachers would be on hand to troubleshoot as needed.

Dr. Sanko added, “If we have a blizzard, a power outage, another Hurricane Sandy situation, I would be talking with the board saying what do you think about us considering the use of a flexible instructional day because we are pushing up against that third week or fourth week of June.”

Board member Dr. Mike Thorwart had some issues with the proposal. “I’m torn, I want to give you the tool, but we spent the year talking about learning loss. We know these flexible online days don’t work. We spent a couple of years doing this and we spent this year with learning loss.”

“I’m a little more appeased that you’re talking about this being serious and a last resort kind of thing but I will note that we had a school district just beside us that decided to use one to make Memorial Day Weekend a four-day weekend. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to use them unless we absolutely have to.”

Agreeing with Thorwart, board member Mike Roosevelt added that there was a noticeable loss in education as a result of online and asynchronous learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he does not support further action on asynchronous learning.

“I would rather look at other areas of our calendar and push that because I think education is what we’re here for and we’ve got to keep kids in school, so I don’t support this and I don’t support it asynchronously. The schools figured out ways to get around these issues before 2019. I don’t understand why we can’t sort that out now.”

Board President Ed Salamon expressed similar concerns but ultimately decided to support the proposal. “This gives me bad memories from the COVID years. I sat and watched my kids at home do asynchronous work and they were done relatively early and then didn’t know what to do the rest of the day because you couldn’t go anywhere.”

“But I trust this administration to do what’s best for kids and I think this is something that would be an absolute emergency tool in the toolkit. It’s a struggle for me to support this but this is where the trust between the administration and the board has to be met.”

Board member Yota Palli added, “We all had bad memories from the last few years, but we’re not voting to keep kids at home, we’re voting to provide a tool to the administration, and in that sense, it makes total sense to have that flexibility.”

In the end, the board voted 5-2 to allow the administration to apply for the flexible days. Salamon, Palli, Steve Nowmos, Bob Hickey, and Joe Hidalgo voted yes while Thorwart and Roosevelt opposed the motion. Board members Ed Tate and Mariann McKee were not present for the vote. The district will now have the flexibility to request these days for the next three years.

About the author

Brett Duffey