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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA BY ROBERT N. HENDERSHOT v. MIFFLIN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD (05/16/77)

May 16, 1977

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA BY ROBERT N. HENDERSHOT, ACTING SECRETARY OF EDUCATION AND ROBERT P. KANE, ATTORNEY GENERAL, PETITIONERS
v.
MIFFLIN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, HAROLD L. DUNMORE, PRESIDENT, MIFFLIN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, RESPONDENTS



30 Pa. Commw. 213.

Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 215]

This is an action in mandamus in the original jurisdiction of this Court by which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth) seeks to compel the Mifflin County School Board (Board) to amend its calendar for the 1976-77 school year to make up 19 days lost due to a teachers' strike. On April 22, 1977, this Court issued an order denying the Commonwealth's motion for a peremptory judgment. The purpose of this opinion is to explain and support that order.

On May 18, 1976, the Board adopted a school calendar for the 1976-77 school year under which instruction was to commence on September 3, 1976, to end on June 3, 1977, and which provided for exactly 180 days of instruction. During November and December of 1976, a professional employees' strike resulted in the loss of 19 days of instruction. An additional three days were lost due to the natural gas shortage which occurred in early 1977. Presently, there are 19 days, all subsequent to June 3, which remain available for make-up before the statutorily

[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 216]

    mandated end of the school year on June 30, 1977.*fn1 If all 19 days are used, the Mifflin school year will consist of 177 days of instruction.

The Commonwealth contends that the Board has a mandatory duty to provide as close to 180 days of instruction as is possible before the statutory end of the school year under Section 1501 of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. ยง 15-1501. Section 1501 provides in pertinent part:

All public kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools shall be kept open each school year for at least one hundred eighty (180) days of instruction for pupils.

The Commonwealth further asserts that all doubts as to its right to relief in mandamus in cases seeking compliance with the "180 day rule" were removed by the decision in Pittenger v. Union Area School Board, 24 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 442, 356 A.2d 866 (1976). Thus, it argues that peremptory judgment is proper and should be granted.

The Board, on the other hand, asserts that it is under the duty to amend its schedule to make up only as many of the lost days as sound educational practice would indicate. It relies primarily on the decision in Root v. Northern Cambria School District, 10 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 174, 309 A.2d 175 (1973). In its pleadings the Board makes numerous allegations which run to the issue of what is sound educational practice under the circumstances of this case. For example, it is alleged that extending the school year beyond the originally scheduled ending date of June 3 would: (1) interfere with or frustrate job plans and further educational plans of many students; (2) upset family vacation plans; (3) interfere with the performance

[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 217]

    of farming duties of many students; (4) conflict with Bible schooling held in the month of June; (5) cause the loss of such summer programs as those in music and driver education; (6) create a substantial risk of student unrest and disciplinary problems; (7) be of little or no incremental educational value; and (8) result in sparse attendance.

If the Commonwealth's position that Union Area, supra, makes these allegations irrelevant is correct, the peremptory judgment would be proper. But if the principles announced in Root, supra, are applicable, then these allegations raise material issues ...


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