PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — All of our area school districts are officially on summer break, but some parents may be wondering if their kids are really ready for the next grade level after such a difficult school year.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: State Of Education
Under a new law in Florida, parents or guardians can request that their K-5 public school student "be retained for the 2021-2022 school year" in their current grade level, "provided that such request is made for academic reasons."
"Let's talk about that plan that we could put in place for that academic year that’s coming up before that decision is made," said Glenda Sheffield, the chief academic officer for the School District of Palm Beach County.
Palm Beach County school leaders said they've received a few requests from parents who want to hold their kids back next school year.
Under the law, parents or guardians must submit, in writing, a retention request to your school's principal "that specifies the academic reasons for the retention."
That request must be submitted on or before June 30 to be considered. Any request received after June 30 would be up to the principal's discretion to consider.
Then the principal, teacher, and parents will meet to discuss the child's situation.
School leaders, however, said retention is not always the best option.
"There may be opportunities for summer learning," said Keith Oswald, the chief of equity and wellness for the School District of Palm Beach County. "There may be opportunities for learning throughout next school year to be provided additional support."
Oswald added the effects of holding your child back can extend beyond the classroom.
"There are also potential impacts when a student enters into high school and wants to compete in athletics," Oswald said. "A child who is over age in high school may become ineligible for certain sports during their high school period."
School district leaders said that while the law is newly approved, parents have always been active partners in their child's education and have had the right to request a conversation about retention.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Saltz said there are mental and emotional factors to consider as well.
"When we talk about holding a child back, maturity is important, social skills are important, fine and gross motor skills are important," Saltz said. "And then whether there is a history of mental health issues. How the child is doing socially with the other kids."
Saltz said that if you do decide to move forward with requesting to hold your child back, make sure your child knows you support them.
"That becomes a self esteem issue, right?" Saltz said. "I think that if you decide to hold your child back, the first thing to do is really normalize and make it not into a bad thing. I think that, automatically, if a child is doing something different than a majority of other children, then they feel like there’s something wrong."
Experts said the bottom line is make sure you have that conversation with those who know your child best.
"We as parents and professionals and teachers need to say, there's nothing wrong. Every child learns at their own pace and we have to do what's best for each individual child. It's not a simple answer," Saltz said.
ADVICE FROM CHILD PSYCHIATRIST:
You can read the new law by clicking here.
For more information from the School District of Palm Beach County about the potential impacts of retention and factors to consider, click here.