The Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.

The Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. (WDRB file photo) 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky students could get another school year to retake courses and compete in athletics in legislation sent to the House floor Friday.

The House Education Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise. The bill would apply to K-12 students currently enrolled in Kentucky schools and allow families to ask their local school boards or private school systems for a supplemental academic year after the COVID-19 pandemic upended normal operations throughout the 2020-21 school year.

Students would only get credits toward graduation during the supplemental school year if they pass courses they previously failed and school boards would decide by June 1 whether to approve or reject all requests as a group instead of considering petitions on case-by-case bases if SB 128 becomes law.

Private schools would have until May 1 to grant extra academic years, and school boards could also create supplemental programs for seniors who graduate in May for the 2021-22 school year, according to the legislation.

Wise, a Campbellsville Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said the legislation would give families the option of supplementing the 2020-21 school year “based off educational experiences lost over this last year.”

“It provides flexibility,” he said. “It provides innovation for school districts wishing to do this.”

Students could get an extra year of eligibility for high school athletics, but SB 128 would not raise Kentucky’s current age restriction for student-athletes. The state does not allow students who turn 19 by the beginning of August to compete in school athletics, Wise said.

“This bill does not allow 19- and 20-year-old students to be in the hallways of high schools and on a football field, on a basketball court for any type of advantage,” he said.

Wise predicted between 3% and 5% of students will seek another school year to retake or supplement courses taken in 2020-21 based on input he’s received. Without firm figures of how many students would get another academic year, neither he nor a representative of the Kentucky Department of Education could say exactly how much SB 128 would cost the state in per-pupil funding for public school districts.

“We don't have good estimates for how many students would take advantage of this option and how many districts would take advantage of this option,” said Chuck Truesdell, KDE’s director of government relations.

If 1% of Kentucky’s current K-12 enrollment was granted an extra academic year, the state would spend about $2 million more in Support Education Excellence in Kentucky funding for school districts, he said.

“If it's 3% of students statewide who actually are able to take advantage, it would cost about $6 million per year, but that's about as accurate as we can get,” Truesdell said.

Several on the House Education Committee praised SB 128.

Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, said she knows of kindergartners who still cannot identify letters in the alphabet. She “sincerely” hopes Jefferson County Public Schools allows students to retake courses in the 2021-22 school year if SB 128 becomes law, she said.

“To send those kids on to first grade is just setting them up to increase those gaps that we know already exist, so I'm very grateful that this bill extends through all the grade levels,” Bojanowski said.

SB 128 passed the Senate on a 36-0 vote Tuesday.

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