Newport Board of Education Rejects Allowing Students to Repeat a Grade


District puts new programs in place to help students "catch up"

June 8, 2021

NEWPORT – The Newport Board of Education has unanimously voted to reject the provisions of a recently-enacted state law that allows students to repeat a grade of school while announcing new programs designed to help students catch up following the loss of in-person instruction due to COVID.

The board followed the recommendation of Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Tony Watts in deciding against accepting the Supplemental School Year Program permitted under Senate Bill 128 that was enacted earlier this year by The Kentucky General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Andy Beshear.

The program was passed following the disruption to public education by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to school buildings closing for a year of mostly virtual learning. The so-called "re-do" or "repeat" program allows any student in grades kindergarten through 12th grade that were enrolled during the 2020-21 school year to request to use the 2021-22 year as a supplemental year to retake or supplement courses the student already has taken.

Superintendent Watts assured board members that the district has put in place programs and opportunities to assist students in need of additional instruction, including tutoring, daily interventions and allowing students to take computers and other devices home for additional learning.

"Any students that requires or wants extra help will get it," Watts said. "We will do all we can to get our kids caught up."

An estimated 400 students have signed up for a summer learning program called Camp Wildcat that will focus on extended opportunities to address the learning loss associated with the pandemic.

The district will provide bus service, weekly incentives will be provided to families that have students with good attendance and students will have the opportunity to be entered into drawings for prizes throughout Camp Wildcat.

"It is extremely exciting to be afforded this opportunity to extend educational support throughout the summer for students in the effort of ensuring academic growth and closing achievement gaps," said Jennifer Steidel-Jones, the District's curriculum resource specialist.

"Newport schools and families hold high expectations for student achievement," Steidel-Jones said. "The high number of students signed up for Camp Wildcat is an example of the outstanding efforts and collaborative partnership between Newport families and the school district to ensure our Newport students are at the heart of every decision we make and are academically prepared for a successful future."

All students in Newport Schools were administered a pre-assessment. The assessment data will be analyzed to pinpoint instructional needs and next steps for summer learning sessions. Teachers will be able to utilize the pre-assessment data to design lessons and assessment probes for learning. A post-assessment will be administered to measure student growth.

"Camp Wildcat will include engaging student lessons centered around Focus Standards that better prepare students to be successful in the next level of content," Steidel-Jones said. "This summer, students will also be able to participate in enrichment activities and field trips outside of the Focus Standards content."

Camp Wildcat runs from June 7 to July 2 for Newport Intermediate School and Newport High School and June 7 to July 2 and July 12 to July 23 for Newport Primary School.

"With the encouragement of the Newport Board of Education, Mr. Watts, his leadership team, and staff started collaborating on enhancing our summer program with a focus on how to help our kids regain what was lost academically and socially due to interruptions caused by COVID," said Newport Board of Education Chairwoman Ramona Malone.

Chairwoman Malone said the district has been closely monitoring the impacts of COVID on academic achievement for the last year.

"We are confident that we have what we need to provide our students with the support they need to achieve academic success,” she said, "If they need intervention or extra help, we are well-equipped to provide those services."

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