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State Board of Education Adopts Emergency Waiver Program, Allowing Waiver of Certain High School Graduation Requirements For the Class of 2021 Due to COVID-19

At its March 11 meeting, the State Board of Education (SBE) adopted emergency rules that allow school districts to waive certain graduation requirements for individual students due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These emergency rules apply immediately to the graduating Class of 2021.

The State Legislature recently approved a law (EHB 1121) that provides SBE the authority to create an Emergency Waiver Program for high school graduation. After a school district has tried all appropriate options to help a student meet credit and pathway graduation requirements, and determined that the student has shown preparation for success after high school, a school district may grant an individual student a waiver of some of those requirements.

“Talking to my peers, I know that students have been through so much this past year,” said Margarita Amezcua, SBE Western Washington Student Representative. “We students have developed resiliency and grit that will uniquely prepare us for the future. It is a relief to know the state has taken action to help support us in moving on to our next steps.”

Districts must work with students individually, give guidance on options to the student, consult with the family if possible, and then decide jointly with the student whether a waiver is right for that student. Use of the waiver must be documented in the student’s records, including how the student demonstrated preparation for plans after high school.

“Many of our state’s high school students, especially in the Class of 2021, are impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic for reasons beyond their control,” said State Board of Education Chair, Peter Maier. “The new state law and the emergency rules allow local school districts to address these impacts on an individual student basis and to help students stay on-track for their postsecondary plans. The waiver program is an extra tool school districts can use to help, tailored to what is best for each individual student.”

The emergency rules require school districts to collect and review data on the use of waivers and take appropriate steps to address any inequities. This data will be reported to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.

School districts may apply online to the SBE for the Emergency Waiver Program beginning in late March.

The State Board expects to propose permanent rules for the Classes of 2022 and 2023 at its May 12-13 meeting and, after receiving feedback from the public, adopt permanent rules at its July 14-15 meeting.

Direct link to the adopted emergency rules: