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Friday, May 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Schools can waive some high school graduation requirements, State Board of Education says

UPDATED: Wed., April 8, 2020

Students leave Lewis and Clark High School at the end of classes on March 13, 2020, after Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all public and private schools in districts across the state of Washington closed. The State Board of Education granted districts Wednesday flexibility to allow seniors to graduate despite a school year that ended months early. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Students leave Lewis and Clark High School at the end of classes on March 13, 2020, after Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all public and private schools in districts across the state of Washington closed. The State Board of Education granted districts Wednesday flexibility to allow seniors to graduate despite a school year that ended months early. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday afternoon that will give school districts the flexibility to waive certain state credits for graduation.

To obtain the waiver, districts will need to complete an application – which may be available as soon as Thursday – and demonstrate what the state terms a “good-faith” effort to address core course requirements and credit deficiencies.

Spokane Public Schools is prepared to do just that.

“We as a district will be applying for the SBE waiver to have maximum flexibility in supporting our seniors,” said Scott Kerwien, the director of College and Career Readiness at Spokane Public Schools.

The new rules are effective immediately for the class of 2020 and give districts additional tools to help students graduate despite the school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this difficult time, our state’s students come first,” State Board of Education Chair Peter Maier said. “By adopting these rules, we considered the many high school students who otherwise would face great limitations due to this historic pandemic.

“These new rules give flexibility to let school districts support students now, while honoring the student work done before school buildings closed.”

The new rules also allow private schools to waive credit-based graduation requirements for individual students and waive school-day and instructional-hour requirements for the 2019-20 school year.

Applications for the waiver should be available online by April 15. The Board plans to hold a special meeting on April 21 to review the first round of applications.

Districts can waive credits for coursework students were taking when Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in February and for credits students intended to enroll in before the school year ends.

That could include summer school classes, should school buildings remain closed through the summer months.

Districts are expected to first exhaust other options to help students complete required credits.

Waivers are only for seniors, and they must still meet other graduation requirements.

Moreover, the waiver doesn’t grant credit, which may prevent some students from enrolling in certain college courses. That issue is still being discussed with colleges and universities.

Kerwien said the district plans to “formalize the draft plan presented to our school board last Wednesday to allow seniors maximum flexibility in pursuing letter grades, pass/fail grades and pursuing competency-based options with teachers to raise F grades to pass grades.”

“We are working on communication and tools to support teachers, counselors and administration working with students and families to ‘do no harm’ and pursue multiple options to graduate,” Kerwien said.

At the Central Valley School District, Superintendent Ben Small praised the decision.

“As we analyze the actions by the State Board of Education and receive additional guidance from OSPI, we believe it is in the best interest of our students to allow this unique adaptability while remaining accountable to our high educational standards,” Small said in a statement.

“We will be working closely with our seniors and their families on how to make the most of the rest of their senior year as we celebrate their accomplishments and honor the Class of 2020,” Small said.

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