The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on children's mental health
and academic success
. Students are falling behind and those who are low-income, minorities, students with disabilities, and students learning English are suffering the most. Even though it would dramatically help to get kids back into the classroom sooner, our schools can't open this fall until September 1st.
On Wednesday, I testified in favor of my bill to give school districts the flexibility to pick their own start date. Under current law, public schools cannot begin fall classes before September 1st unless granted a waiver by the Department of Public Instruction. Senate Bill 182
empowers local school boards to decide if an earlier start date is in the best interest of their students. This bill would not require districts to begin school before September 1st, nor will it affect the number of days schools are required to be in session.
There are compelling academic reasons for allowing school districts the authority to set an earlier date for the start of fall classes. Many students take Advanced Placement (AP) courses throughout their academic year. Advanced Placement Exams, usually conducted in the first half of May, determine if students will receive AP credit toward college. Since the College Board sets the Advanced Placement Exams, local school districts are unable to alter the administration of these tests. Once these tests conclude, many students remain in AP classes for several weeks which could have been better spent preparing for these tests beforehand.
Additionally, many students who participate in fall sports or other elective courses are already on campus in August. In many instances, schools schedule their first football game or another fall athletic competition before classes are in session.
Due to the September 1st mandate, public schools cannot begin summer vacation until the second or third week of June. Many summer academic enrichment programs and mentoring opportunities have already started by this time, meaning public school students miss the beginning of these programs.
It is an understatement to say this school year has been anything short of extraordinary. The COVID-19 pandemic has put new strains on learning. Senate Bill 182 will give school districts another tool to minimize the amount of learning loss that has occurred. This act will first apply to the commencement of the 2022-23 school term.