When a school district provides homebound instruction, certain laws and regulations apply.
It is the school board's responsibility to adopt written policies and distribute these yearly to parents (22 Pa Code § 11.41).
When homebound instruction is provided, the school district's policies must include the following (22 Pa Code § 11.25(c)):
- The district’s and the student’s responsibilities
- A description of the instructional services that will be available to homebound students
The school district's policy may state that homebound services will begin at the time of the initial request or that the student must be absent for a specified number of days before homebound instruction begins. This is a local decision.
A school district may provide homebound instruction for a total of three months without consulting or notifying the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). The reasons for allowing a student to receive homebound instruction in lieu of being physically present at school are defined by regulation as mental, physical, or other urgent reasons. However, the term "urgent reasons" shall be strictly construed and not permit irregular attendance. See 22 Pa Code § 11.25(a).
It is the responsibility of the family to ensure adequate proof is provided or the request may be denied.
Following the initial three months, the district must request an extension from PDE in order to continue to allow a student to be excused from school attendance and to provide homebound instruction for a longer period of time. See 22 Pa Code § 11.25(b).
PDE will not act on any request for an extension until the initial three months has expired. When an extension is requested, PDE requires that a licensed practitioner submit to the school district an updated examination and extension request within two weeks of the impending extension.
If an extension is not granted by either the school district or PDE, the student must return to school.
Since the goal is to rehabilitate a student so that they can return to school, the district's policy may define what is acceptable as an appropriately licensed professional for a specific type of excusal. For example, if a student suffers emotional/mental illness, the district may require that medical information submitted to substantiate homebound instruction be prepared by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The student's treatment and progress should be monitored by an appropriately licensed professional. School districts may require frequent updates on the student's progress, from an appropriately licensed professional, as a condition of continued excusal.
It is not necessary to send to PDE the licensed professional's documentation with the extension request; the district simply must ensure the excuse is reasonable for absence from school and that the student is being treated actively for the condition necessitating the absence.
A student receiving homebound instruction is counted in both membership and attendance. If a student does not receive homebound instruction during the first three months, then the student is counted in membership but not in attendance. This becomes a factor in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) calculations.
PDE's Child Accounting counts an hour of weekly instruction as equivalent to a day of school attendance. Therefore, five hours of weekly instruction are equivalent to five days of school attendance.
However, for every hour less than the total of five hours of homebound instruction provided (or 2.5 hours for half-day attendees), the student is marked as absent – one day for each hour missed. Hours are counted on a weekly basis; a student cannot be counted as present by combining hours from consecutive weeks. For example, three hours of homebound instruction one week and seven hours the next week cannot count as fulltime for the two weeks.
The district may, at their discretion, provide more than five hours of instruction per week without requesting special permission from PDE.
A school district may structure homebound instruction for a student such that the student attends school part-time, as his or her condition allows; homebound instruction requests need not be restricted to students who are unable to attend school at all. This is a local decision.
If a student attends school for partial days, than homebound instruction would be prorated. For example, if a student attends school half-days, only 2.5 hours of homebound instruction is required for the equivalent of five days of instruction.
A homebound student is required to participate in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). If the student is incapable of participating at the school, the individual who is providing the homebound instruction should be trained to administer the assessment and then administer the test to the student in his/her home.