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Some policies allow students an extra year to participate in both academics and athletics, other measures focus entirely on sports.
Students in Kentucky whose academic—and athletic—careers were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic could have the option for a do-over under legislation approved Tuesday by state lawmakers.
The bill, passed unanimously by the Senate and by a wide margin in the House, would allow students of all ages to remain at their current grade level next year to retake or supplement classes they took virtually. The measure would also give students an additional year of athletic eligibility. If signed into law, local school boards would have final authority over whether to implement the policy.
“This is an academic-first bill no matter what anyone thinks,” Sen. Max Wise, a Republican and the measure’s main sponsor, told YourSportsEdge.com. “We left local control with the districts to decide what is best for the students in their district. But I want them to have that opportunity to let kids be able to redo this year if they want.”
The legislation, awaiting a signature from Gov. Andy Beshear, is one of a growing number of policies designed to give students and student-athletes the option to recapture a pandemic school year riddled with cancellations and virtual classes. Some measures, like Kentucky’s, focus equally on academics and extracurricular activities, while others address only athletic eligibility.
In Maryland, for example, lawmakers introduced a proposal to allow members of the class of 2021 to play high-school sports next year, provided they were academically eligible when they graduated. The bill, currently in committee, would remain in effect for only a year, and would allow students to return only to the high school they previously attended. Proponents said the measure was designed partly to give student athletes another shot at obtaining college scholarships.
“The students that were forced to sacrifice all or most of their final year of high school sports deserve the opportunity to enjoy their final season, as well as compete for scholarships that may have been lost due to their inability to play,” Del. Haven Shoemaker, a Republican and the House legislation’s main sponsor, said in a statement.
Others are more comprehensive. New Jersey in June passed a law establishing a three-year “bridge year” program to allow some seniors to defer their high school graduation for a year “to participate in an additional year of academic courses and extracurricular activities immediately following their senior year.” Students who opt in to the program must remain enrolled at the same high school they attended during their junior year, and can take a mix of high school and college courses.
“Affording high schoolers, whose educational experiences will look different from their peers as a result of this pandemic, a chance to make up for lost time is how we offset the impact of these unprecedented times,” New Jersey Assemblywomen Pam Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Valerie Vainieri Huttle said in a written statement.
Other states have adjusted athletic policies outside of the legislative process, including Ohio, where the High School Athletic Association loosened the standards that students must meet to remain academically eligible. The policy change, announced in December, waives grade-based eligibility requirements for the remainder of the current school year and grants student-athletes eligibility during the first grading period of the 2021-22 school year, subject to final approval by individual school districts.
“This decision to waive the scholarship bylaw through the school year is being made because we recognize that quarantines, differing educational models, varying access to the internet, etc. have made this a very challenging school year for our student-athletes,” the association said in a statement.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.