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SB 128: athletics or academics?

Governor Beshear signed SB 128 into law this week. The bill sailed through both Houses with a minimum of fanfare. Cosponsored by Senators Wise (R - 16 Campbellsville ), D. Carroll (R - 2 Benton) and Girdler (R - 15 Somerset),

It's now up to school boards to figure out how to let every student that requests to blank out school year 2020-2021 and start over in 2021-2022 as if the previous year did not exist.

The original summary of the bill is "Allow public high school students currently enrolled in Kentucky to request to use the 2021-2022 school year as a supplemental school year to retake and supplement coursework already completed; require local boards of education to either approve or deny all requests; allow Kentucky nonpublic schools to also implement supplemental school years; *ensure students utilizing supplemental school years are not ineligible to participate in KHSAA activities*; EMERGENCY." emphasis added - this phrased changed in committee

School systems may or may not choose to use the law. If it is applied, K-12 students must make the request by May 1, 2021. The Board has no choice but to grant every request. Every request must be granted. No reason for the request is required.

Now school boards are left scratching their heads on whether to implement it or not. School boards have not received direction at this writing from the Kentucky Department of Education on how it will work. As simple as it sounds on the surface, it is not. While it looks like good old fashioned retention (holding a child back to repeat a grade), it gets more complicated as students reach middle and high school.

The first topic on Senate Bill 128 note is "Athletics" which should tell educators what was in the back of the minds of supporters of it.

Athletes and their parents will be eyeing the law with one more year of eligibility in mind. Getting a year more to hone one skills when the past year has gone by without sports is tempting. It is a decision not to be made lightly. The bill as passed provides that "and ensure KHSAA rules and regulations not specifically waived are affirmed, including transfer rules." (emphasis added). Students and parents must navigate the rule that presently says 19 is cut off for high school sport participation. If that rule remains in effect, a senior year taken under SB 128 may become a year on the bench.

High school students taking dual credit classes may be faced with finding out if that college credit will remain if the year it was earned in disintegrates. Colleges haven't weighed in yet. A wipe out is a wipe out. Or is it?

Elementary students may need another year in the classroom to get back to where they were before the pandemic hit. Remote learning hasn't been a roaring success for every child. Lack of good internet access, monitoring by parents who work or don't have the skill base to become a trained teacher all have led students to "fall behind."

The question that also hasn't been answered is when the do over is granted, is it an unchanging rule? For students who look longingly at their classmates who are now a grade ahead, can the rule be undone. It doesn't appear to be so - any more than a decision to retain a child can be undone after it's implemented.

Schools are working to help students catch up with tutoring and summer programs. Hickman County High has consulted parents, special ed teachers and even a district judge to help students succeed. Hickman County High School Principal Shane Bizzle told the Board, "Failure after failure after failure takes the fun out of education."

Schools again are left to implement what their legislators think is a real good idea.

They should be used to it by now.


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