HARRISBURG – Students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness could continue to participate in classroom activities and learning under a bill approved by the Senate today, according to one of the bill’s prime sponsors, Senator Scott Martin (R-13).
Senate Bill 144, which was introduced by Martin and Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Senate Democrat Leader Jay Costa (D-43), would create a new grant program to help Intermediate Units purchase technology that will allow homebound students to participate in normal classroom learning, schoolwork and activities remotely through the use of telepresence technology.
Martin said the technology includes robotic devices that resemble an i-Pad mounted on a mobile Segway unit that allow real-time communication between students and their classrooms.
“I learned more about the need for this technology by working with young people and families affected by childhood cancer. This kind of resource is invaluable in helping these students retain some sense of connection to the outside world and avoid falling behind in their studies,” Martin said. “Bridging the gap between these students and their classmates can make a world of difference.”
In current practice, homebound education is available to students who cannot attend school due to serious medical issues. However, Martin said many schools struggle to find a qualified teacher to provide instruction.
Martin noted that one school district he represents has as many as 10 to 15 students who require homebound instruction every year.
The grant program would be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Funding would come from any undistributed money that is not already committed to other projects, so it would not create a new expenditure for state taxpayers.
Martin, Aument and Costa introduced similar legislation last year (Senate Bill 1275).
CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535