On June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed Senate Bill 664 (the “Bill”) into law. The Bill amends the Public School Code of 1949 to provide students with an optional year of education due to lost educational opportunities caused by COVID-19.
Under the Bill, parents or guardians of children under the age of eighteen may elect to have their minor children repeat a grade level during the 2021-2022 school year. Prior to the Bill’s passage, the decision to hold a student back was made solely by the school. Students over the age of eighteen must make the election themselves if they wish to repeat a grade level. If elected, students who repeat a grade level during the 2021-2022 school year will be allowed to participate in academic or extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics; however, such students will not receive an additional year of interscholastic athletics eligibility.
The Bill also provides parents or guardians of students with disabilities who were enrolled during the 2020-2021 school year and who reached age twenty-one during the 2020-2021 school year or between the end of the 2020-2021 school year and the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year the right to elect to enroll their children for an additional year. The parent or guardian and the student must make the election. In effect, this provision provides students with disabilities who would have otherwise aged out of schooling an additional year of education. If elected, school entities are required to implement the student’s most recent IEP and provide extended school year services during the summer after the 2020-2021 school year. School entities are also required to take all steps necessary to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Note, the deadline to make an election under the Bill is July 15, 2021. Accordingly, parents, guardians and students will only have fifteen days to make their decision. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is required to make election forms available on its website.