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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Amid fears that a “COVID slide” will hamper Florida pupils’ learning gains, a key Senate panel on Wednesday signed off on a proposal to allow parents to retain K-8 students in their current grade level for the next school year.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the proposal (SB 200), which would require parents to submit a written request to district school superintendents to keep students in their current grade level.

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“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all seen how school districts and students have all been pushed into uncharted territory this year. The overwhelming majority of our elementary and middle-school students have had some difficulty with the online learning model,” Sen. Lori Berman, a Delray Beach Democrat who sponsored the bill, said during Wednesday’s committee meeting.

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Berman said that, under her proposal, parents would be required to submit a request to district school superintendents by June 30, but superintendents would have discretion to approve late requests.

“This bill allows parents of students in grades K-8 to make the decision to allow their child to repeat the school year for one year only — just for the next school year. We know that the COVID-slide is real and troubling. In Palm Beach County, data shows that the percentage of middle school F’s increased from 1.6 percent to 7.7 percent this past year,” Berman told the panel.

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Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, pointed out that some extracurricular activities, such as sports, have age limits for participation.

He asked Berman if she considered “possibly allowing some relief if a student is held back for a year and trips that age threshold.”

But Berman said her proposal was geared toward younger students.

“One of the reasons why we amended the bill overall down to K-8 was so that we would not run into a lot of the issues that happened in high school with eligibility and things like parents wanting their child to attend prom,” Berman said, adding “we can look into that.”

Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, was the only senator on the 10-member committee who did not vote on the proposal.

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