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Florida Measure To Prevent 'COVID Slide' Becomes Law

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It would allow parents to request that children in kindergarten through fifth grade be retained to help them catch up.

Parents of public-school students in kindergarten through fifth grade will be able to request that children be retained in their current grade levels for the 2021-2022 school year under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Lawmakers approved the issue during the spring legislative session to help combat lagging learning gains during the COVID-19 pandemic — what has become known as the “COVID slide.”

The issue was tacked onto a large education bill (SB 1028) that also includes provisions about charter schools and a controversial plan to bar transgender females from participating in high school and college girls’ and women’s sports.

The student-retention issue seeks to have parents make requests by June 30, though principals will be able to consider retention requests that come in after that deadline.

Parents are required to submit requests in writing to principals, specifying “the academic reasons for the retention.”

Principals and teachers would be required to discuss with parents reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with retaining students. They could also choose to create “customized” one-year education plans for the students instead of using retention.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all seen how school districts and students have all been pushed into uncharted territory this year,” Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, said in February when introducing a stand-alone bill to allow student retention.

Principals are required under the measure to explain that retaining students could impact eligibility for playing sports, and parents will be required to sign a form “acknowledging the academic and athletic ramifications of his or her decision.”

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