Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

State House panel backs a limited year-round schools pilot program

- By Ryan Dailey

TALLAHASSE­E — A House panel on Tuesday supported launching a pilot program of yearround schools, with the plan’s sponsor suggesting it could help students recover from learning losses during the COVID19 pandemic.

The House Choice & Innovation Subcommitt­ee unanimousl­y approved a bill (HB 891) that would set up a pilot program for four years, with a goal of studying the “benefits” of a year-long school schedule.

“The purpose of the program is for the Department of Education to assist school districts in establishi­ng a year-round school program within at least one elementary school in the district and study the issues, benefits, and schedule options for institutin­g year-round school programs for all students,” an introducto­ry part of the bill said.

Districts could apply to participat­e in the program. The state education commission­er would select five districts to participat­e, and to “the extent possible,” those districts would “represent a variety of demographi­cs, including, but not limited to, an urban, suburban, and rural school district.”

The House bill sponsor, Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Pompano Beach, said the benefits of a yearround schedule include the potential to help students rebound from education disruption­s suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Number one, this bill could help every child that participat­es. Number two, we have lost two years due to COVID for education. Number three, crime increases during the time our children are out of school in the juvenile-kids age range,” Williams told the House panel.

Districts that apply would have to provide informatio­n about the number of students enrolled in elementary schools that would participat­e, the academic performanc­es and rates of absenteeis­m of those students and “commitment of such school’s or schools’ instructio­nal personnel and students to the year-round school program.”

Districts seeking to participat­e also would have to provide an “explanatio­n of how the implementa­tion of the year-round school program will benefit the students.”

After the four-year pilot ends, the education commission­er would provide a report to the governor, Senate president and House speaker that would include whether the agency recommends year-round schools statewide.

Rep. Kevin Chambliss, D-Homestead, drew laughs Tuesday as he expressed support for the measure.

“I just wanted to volunteer my kids to be guinea pigs and make sure that they can participat­e in this,” Chambliss joked.

Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, has filed a similar bill (SB 1564), which has not been heard in Senate committees.

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