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Parents In Pa. Could Soon Have Power To Decide If A Child Should Repeat Grade Due To Pandemic Learning Loss

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Parents in Pennsylvania could soon have the power to decide if they want their child to repeat a grade due to learning loss caused by the pandemic.

The state Senate Education Committee approved a bipartisan bill Monday that would give parents that option for the 2021-2022 school year.

It's been more than a year of struggles for students, juggling the ups and downs of virtual and hybrid learning, leaving many behind in the process. That's why some lawmakers are taking action, including state Senator Camera Bartolotta.

"This bill would give parents the option to hold a child back and retake last year, and so many parents I know are very eager to do just that," said Bartolotta.

Some parents KDKA spoke to feel it's a great idea.

"You don't want them to struggle for the next year. I'd rather them stay back so they can understand things, then move them forward," said parent Tracy Dubina.

The bill, which is sponsored by state Senator Jake Corman, would help address lost educational opportunities during both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years regardless of whether a child has met the requirements to be moved on to the next grade level.

It also would give parents the option to extend special education enrollment due to COVID-19, which would allow students who have turned 21 to stay enrolled in school for another year.

Meanwhile, educators said they're doing what they can to help the students who've fallen behind get back on track.

"Our districts are working really hard right now in supplying tutoring, looking at the final stages of planning for summer school programs to address learning loss. So I don't want us to act prematurely on this," said the Executive Director of Intermediate Unit 1 Dr. Donald Martin.

Martin said Unit 1, which covers Washington, Greene and Fayette counties, received federal funds to make this happen.

Senator Bartolotta stresses the time is now.

"Without this legislation, it's up to the principal and will have to show that the child didn't reach any of those benchmarks to go to the next grade level," said Bartolotta.

The bill still needs to be reviewed by the state House Appropriations Committee, but it could get a final vote by the full Senate as early as Wednesday.

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