Education Law Update: Pennsylvania Senate Bill 664 allows special education students to receive continued service beyond the age of 21 and allows all students to repeat a grade level during the 2021-2022 school year

On June 24, 2021 the Pennsylvania House and Senate both passed Senate Bill 664, which will allow extended enrollment for special education students and allow students in the Commonwealth to repeat a grade level during the 2021-2022 school year. Senate Bill 664, awaiting signature by Governor Tom Wolf, will add two sections to the Pennsylvania Public School Code (School Code) allowing students an optional year of education during the 2021-2022 school year so students do not lose educational opportunities due to COVID-19.

The Bill adds Section 1383 to the School Code which entitles students with a disability who turned twenty-one (21) years of age during the 2020-2021 school year, or between the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, to attend a school entity during the 2021-2022 school year. The parent or guardian and the student must elect to enroll in the school entity for the 2021-2022 school year by July 15, 2021 on a form to be developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Any student older than twenty-one (21) years of age with an active IEP during the 2021-2022 school year will still be eligible for continued service under the IDEA during the 2021-2022 school year.

Section 1383 requires a school entity to do the following: implement the student’s most recent IEP; provide extended school year services during the summer after the 2020-2021 school year in accordance with the student’s most recent IEP; and take all steps necessary to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 22 Pa. Code Chapter 14. The student enrolled in a school entity pursuant to Section 1383 will be included in the school entity’s average daily membership.

The Bill also adds Section 1501.10 to the School Code which allows a student to repeat a grade level during the 2021-2022 school year to make up for any lost educational opportunities due to COVID-19, regardless of whether the student meets the requirements to advance to the next grade level. For the 2021-2022 school year, a parent or guardian may elect to have a child under eighteen (18) years of age repeat a grade level or a child at or over eighteen (18) years of age may elect to repeat a grade level. Parents and students wanting a student to repeat a grade level must elect to do so on a form developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education by July 15, 2021.

Students who repeat a grade level for the 2021-2022 school year are entitled to participate in academic or extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletics. However, a student will not be entitled to have more eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletics than they would have had otherwise. For example, PIAA eligibility rules dictate that a student cannot participate in interscholastic athletics if the student turns nineteen (19) years of age before July 1 of the new school year. With Section 1501.10, students who turn nineteen (19) years of age before July 1, 2021 will still be ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics for the 2021-2022 school year.

With the deadline for students and parents to elect enrollment in the 2021-2022 school year approaching on July 15, 2021, schools must be diligent ensuring they have the proper staff and resources to handle the additional enrollment of students and fulfill the school entity’s obligations under Senate Bill 664. Some special education students will be entitled to extended school year services between the end of the 2020-2021 school year and beginning of the 2021-2022 school year so schools will be required to provide these services to such students entitled to them.

For more information about a school’s obligations under Senate Bill 664, please contact Patricia A. Hennessy or your Pennsylvania Barton Gilman education lawyer, Kathy Nagle, Chris Barrett or Adam Attia at 215-874-0946 or by email.

About Barton Gilman

Barton Gilman provides the full scope of legal services to education clients – including traditional and non-traditional public schools, charter schools, charter management organizations, private schools, education advocacy organizations and other education-related organizations – throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. For more information, please click here.