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Florida school children could repeat a year amid coronavirus pandemic

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A bill making its way through the Florida state senate would allow elementary and middle school students to repeat a grade due to learning loss during the coronavirus pandemic. 

After transitioning to remote learning last spring, Florida schools reopened for in-person classes in the fall, but many parents across the state have opted for their children to continue to learn remotely due to concerns over coronavirus. 

Florida state Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat representing parts of central Palm Beach County, said her bill, which was approved by the education committee Wednesday, is necessary because the “COVID-19 pandemic pushed school districts and students into uncharted territory this past year.”

“Because online learning is self-directed school work that requires discipline, many elementary and middle school students may not be thriving,” Sen. Berman told Fox News Thursday.

“There are indications that more students are failing as a result of the COVID slide, and hopefully they can improve. But I believe there is a real need for this bill to help our struggling students.”

If the bill passes, parents would have to submit a retention request to a school district’s superintendent by June 30 of this year. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has pushed to keep schools open, endorsed the idea of allowing students to repeat a year last March when the pandemic first began. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium.
Getty Images

“Parents may, at their discretion, choose to keep their child in the same grade for the 2020-2021 school year,” he said at a news conference on March 17. 

DeSantis never enshrined the idea with an executive order.  

The coronavirus pandemic has set back the educations of kids nationwide. Students on average are expected to lose five to nine months of learning by the end of this school year, according to a recent McKinsey & Company report.

“While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss,” the consulting firm noted. 

The CDC came out in favor of a full return to in-person learning last month to try to mitigate against any further learning loss, saying that the “preponderance of available evidence” suggests schools are safe as long as preventative measures like mask-wearing and social distancing take place.

“As many schools have reopened for in-person instruction in some parts of the US as well as internationally, school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission,” CDC researchers wrote last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

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