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Massachusetts Rep pitches pandemic remedy: Extra year of school

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Chris Lisinski/SHNS

The abrupt shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic upended K-12 education across the country, particularly for individuals with developmental disabilities, and one state representative from Boston pitched a strategy Tuesday to repair some of the damage: allow any student who will soon graduate to stay in school for an additional year.

Legislation filed by Democrat Rep. Edward Coppinger (H 3865) would allow any Massachusetts student who graduated in 2021 or is scheduled to graduate in 2022, their parent or their guardian to “opt-in” to another year of education before they move on to the next step in life. It would also allow any student receiving special education services who turns 22 — the age at which they no longer qualify for transition services from public school districts — during the 2020-2021 or 2021-2022 academic years to stay in school until they turn 23.

“Due to COVID, many students with disabilities were not in the classroom for 14 to 16 months,” Coppinger told the Education Committee. “The students who are now due to graduate in 2022 have missed out tremendously on these all-important lessons which would prepare them to exit school and, in some cases, go on to independent living. There is tremendous stress and trepidation currently upon the families of these students.”

Other bills from Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington and Rep. Carmine Gentile of Sudbury (S 282 / H 601) would allow municipalities to seek reimbursement for offering compensatory special education services to students who aged out during the pandemic.

“Without this bill, districts would need to rely solely on local and federal funding,” Gentile said. “This legislation is vitally important to ensure equitable access to these compensatory special education services essential to mitigate the harm experienced by students turning 22 during the pandemic.”

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