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July 13, 2021Advocacy Matters

Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

Tuesday, July 13, 2021


#AdvocacyMatters Segment

Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19

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COVID-19 remote learning caused disruptions and learning losses for some K-12 students.

In response, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed legislation that will allow an additional school year for students aging out of special education. The law will enable students with disabilities who turned 21 during the 2020-2021 school year to attend school during the 2021-2022 school year. The bill made clear that all IDEA provisions apply to students during this additional year. The bill also made clear that the decision to attend an additional year does not replace any student’s ability to pursue compensatory education for gaps and losses that have occurred during the past school year.

The law also allows any K-12 student to repeat their 2020-2021 school year.

Parents can make this decision for students under the age of 18. Students over the age of 18 can make this decision themselves if they want to repeat the school year.

The extra year of eligibility beyond age 21 only applies to this year. If the student who is not aging out in 2020-2021 elects to repeat a lower school grade, it will not result in an extra year of eligibility at the end of the school career.


The deadline to notify your school if you want your child to have an additional school year is July 15, 2021. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has provided guidance. We have links to the guidance on our website at

If parents or students have questions about the optional year of education, please call Disability Rights Pennsylvania at 1-800-692-7443, extension 400 to discuss questions about your student’s specific situation. Some research has shown that there are downsides to holding a student back a year. Parents should carefully consider whether to retain their child in their grade.



Pennsylvania Department of Education Guidance

Research on Grade Retention