Wise proposing bill to give high school students a do-over year

By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A bill proposed by a central Kentucky lawmaker would give high school students a chance to have a do-over for this school year because of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, says he is sponsoring this measure, after hearing from numerous parents about the impacts COVID-19 has had on their children.

“There’s been everything from frustration, to seeing mental health issues, to seeing opportunities taken away from their child. I look at this with a heart for kids and the year lost, and the opportunities that have gone with that.”

While he says there is a benefit for high school athletics, “we have to look at the overall well-being of students, and those who have truly suffered and could use this as a benefit, in the long run.”

Wise says this would only apply to those who were enrolled as high school students for the 2020-2021 school year, not middle or elementary school students. “If this would become law, they would have until June 15 to make a decision on whether to repeat or have a supplemental year of learning. The local school board would then decide, by June 30, to make the decision to proceed with this.”

He says that would give the local school board the opportunity to look at how many students would like to have this option. “It would give the school district time to see if they have enough teachers to be able to accommodate this, do they have the facilities to accommodate this, do they have the funding to accommodate this,” Wise said. “It really gets back to local school district control on the issue.”

He says he’s unsure how many students would take advantage.

“I know many seniors probably already have one foot out the door,” Wise said. “I have a high school senior and she’s ready to move on. I would say the high majority of seniors probably have their plans made. However, if you look at this through the eyes of a freshman, sophomore or possibly a junior, they may look at this and say, ‘You know what, I could use another year to improve my grades.’”

Wise says he has seen data that shows students have struggled this year. “This gives them a remedial year; it gives them another year to improve their ACT test. It gives them another year in the vocational school. Some of our ATCs have not even been open to allow students to do career and tech-ready programs.”

There is also a sports component to this, according to Wise. “Some student-athletes did not get a full year of competition. Some had a limited schedule. If you look at this from athletics, the NCAA is granting seniors another year of eligibility.”

However, this would not change the Kentucky High School Athletic Association rule that says students cannot be over 19 at the time of their senior year.

His bottom line, “Many students may choose to say, ‘I’m ready to go, I’m done with high school.’ That’s fine. But this gets down to parent choice, student choice, if they wish to repeat that year over again.”

Wise says the bill has not yet been assigned to a committee but would like to see it go before the Senate Education Committee, which he chairs.

He says he has gotten input from the Kentucky Department of Education, superintendents and the KHSAA, but the bill is still a work in progress and he welcomes continued input.

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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for LakerCountry.com and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.