Parents must decide quickly if they want kids to repeat unprecedented COVID school year

Valarie Honeycutt Spears
·4 min read

Families in Fayette who think their child suffered academically during the pandemic have just two weeks until May 1 to request a repeat year under a new state law.

Under the law, the Fayette County Board of Education and other districts in Kentucky must then decide before June 1, 2021, to either accept all of the requests from students or none of the requests, Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm told families in a message Thursday night.

The new law approved in March by the Kentucky General Assembly allows students currently enrolled in grades K-12 to use the 2021-22 school year to retake or supplement courses or grades they have taken in 2020-21 in which students mostly learned virtually. Most districts in the state have now returned in person.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass said at a superintendent’s meeting this week that state officials did not know how many students would take a repeat year and how the new program might impact districts.

Every Fayette school already has an established process for students to be retained if they have not mastered the content they need to move on to the next grade level, Helm said in her message.

“What makes this program different is that it allows families to request retention, and it creates a pathway for seniors who have earned enough credits to graduate to return for a fifth year of high school,” Helm said.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 128 which created the “Supplemental School Year Program,” Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, has said he viewed the legislation as helping students who lost a year of opportunities in learning and extra-curricular activities, mental health and relationships.

“The local school district determines what is ‘reasonable’ in coming up with their supplemental plan and then submits their proposal to KDE by June 16,” Wise told the Herald-Leader Friday. “ The legislative intent of SB128 is for local control decisions and for innovative ways for implementing this in their plans.”

People interested in the option should fill out the district’s online request form before 11:59 p.m May 1.

“We understand this may be a difficult decision for your family given the short timeline, however the law requires a quick turnaround. Fayette County Public Schools wants to help you make an informed decision about whether or not this option is right for your child,” Helm said.

Information on the Senate Bill 128 Supplemental School Year Program is on the district website and the district has a dedicated email address -- sb128@fayette.kyschools.us -- to send questions about the program.

Courses taken during the supplemental year must be those the student previously was enrolled in during 2020-21 or bear a reasonable connection to previous courses.

Students can’t retake or supplement courses or repeat grade levels from any school year before 2020-21, and they can’t use the supplemental school year to explore courses they did not have the opportunity to take in prior years.

Students who choose the supplemental year can participate in extracurricular activities. Student athletes in their senior year could get a fifth year of eligibility In high school, they must meet Kentucky High School Association age and other eligibility requirements. If the student is 19 before August 1, 2021, they will be ineligible for KHSAA sports during the 2021-22 school year, Helm said..

At a Fayette school board budget session Thursday night, board members mentioned that if enough Fayette students repeated a year, more staff might have to be hired.

School districts across Kentucky have been telling families about the program and its pending deadlines..

State education officials said at the recent superintendent’s meeting that districts could use federal COVID stimulus money to pay for costs associated with the supplemental school year program.

“Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic affect education in ways we have never seen before, but it also altered the education landscape going forward,” Glass said in a recent statement “This bill is an example of that. We want to ensure our districts have all the necessary resources to provide students, families and school officials with relevant information as they make these significant decisions.”