Pandemic lessons: Some York County parents are holding their children back for the 2021-22 school year

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Fifth and sixth grade students at South Eastern Intermediate School work in hybrid classrooms, Friday, December 16, 2016.  John A. Pavoncello photo

More than 40 local parents elected to have their students repeat the previous school year through a new law Gov. Tom Wolf signed in June. 

Wolf signed Act 66 of 2021 into law on June 30, allowing students to repeat their grade level from the 2020-21 school year, even if the student met the requirements to move on to the next grade level, to make up for learning losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

York Suburban Middle School English teacher Jamie Evans teaches in a socially distanced classroom while the school operates under a hybrid model during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With state assessment scores still unknown, there aren't many details on how much learning loss Pennsylvania students experienced during the pandemic. School districts across York County took different approaches to education models last year, with some teaching fully remote, others sticking to five days of in-person learning and a few following a hybrid schedule. 

But even for districts that stuck to a traditional class schedule, educators have said the pandemic still had a major impact on students, both academically and emotionally. Several York County teachers said in February that the school year was the most exhausting year they've experienced in their careers, and one of the most difficult parts was seeing the strain the pandemic put on students. 

More:Closer Look: A year into COVID pandemic, York County teachers face exhaustion

The deadline to participate in Act 66 was July 15. As of Monday morning, at least 41 local students — 15 from the West Shore School District, nine from the Central York School District, eight from the Spring Grove Area School District, seven from the Northeastern School District and two from the Southern York County School District — had elected to repeat the previous school year.

Many local school districts are unsure about how many students will be required to repeat the school year because they did not meet the requirements to progress, because many districts are still running summer school programs. 

More:At least 10 local school districts plan to keep masks optional for the 2021-22 school year

More:CDC recommends unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors at K-12 schools

The state is set to receive additional resources to mitigate learning loss through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. ARP ESSER will provide Pennsylvania with $4.9 billion to support long-term education recovery. About $4.5 billion of that funding will be distributed to public school districts and charter schools, according to a state news release.