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High school seniors could graduate in 2020 even if school shuts down for COVID-19

UPDATED: Wed., March 11, 2020

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OLYMPIA – High school seniors who can’t complete core classes because their school is shut down due to the novel coronavirus would still be able to graduate this year under legislation expected to be approved Thursday.

An amendment to the bill that will set aside at least $100 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund would allow the state Board of Education to grant emergency waivers to any local school that closes in response to COVID-19.

The board could waive requirements for the number of instructional hours, school days, credit-based graduation requirements or other provisions for the 2019-20 school year. But a student would be required to have been “on track to graduate” when the state of emergency was declared by Gov. Jay Inslee on February 29, the amendment says.

The amendment only applies to the current school year. It will be added to special legislation to set aside money for the state and local response to the outbreak, which currently calls for a $100 million appropriation from state budget reserves. That amount could rise on Thursday, the final day of the 2020 session, and the bill is expected to be one of the last pieces of legislation passed before adjournment.

Another amendment proposed for the bill is a waiver of the requirement to actively seek work for people who receive unemployment insurance benefits. Through June 30, 2021, a person who is under quarantine or isolation because of the novel coronavirus outbreak would meet that requirement by seeking work that can be performed under those restricted conditions.

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