DOE seeks flexibility in graduation policy

The state Department of Education is seeking flexibility to modify graduation and commencement requirements to allow the Class of 2020 in public high and charter schools to graduate.

The department said Friday that it will be seeking a one-time modification of the rules from the Board of Education. There are about 10,000 students eligible to earn diplomas this year.

“Approval of the proposed waiver will provide educator-driven solutions to address the loss of educational content as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis,” the DOE news release said. “This action will allow Class of 2020 graduates to proceed with post-secondary educational and workforce opportunities without unnecessary delays.”

The call for the waiver came after a Wednesday meeting of assistant superintendents, complex area superintendents, principals and charter school commission members on Wednesday, a report to the board said.

School facilities have been closed to students since March 19, with traditional, in-school instruction temporarily discontinued until at least April 30.

The report and news release did not offer specifics on how the students would make up the lost school time. The report says teachers, leaders and support services staff “will primarily utilize a telework approach to the instructional design during the state’s stay-at-home directive.

“Summer school and other credit recovery opportunities will require educators to administer and operate programs.”

On commencement exercises, the department will make a decision by April 15. School officials have started discussing alternative means of celebration in the event traditional ceremonies cannot be held.

“The decision around celebrating this milestone with our seniors is an emotional one as most students have looked forward to this occasion since they were in elementary school,” said state schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “However, the safety and health of our community is paramount, and we are basing our decisions on guidance from health and state officials in the coming weeks.”

Kishimoto said the request to the board for the waiver “is a critical step in our efforts to adjust the remainder of the school year for our public and charter schools.”

“Once we receive approval from the board, we can formally issue guidance for meeting graduation requirements that has been developed,” she said.

All DOE employees will continue to work remotely until at least April 30, with the exception of those who are considered essential and must perform their duties at a campus or office, the news release said.

Beginning this week, schools started to prepare distance learning opportunities and/or learning packets to be distributed via email, school websites and some in person. Work packets will not be graded, but many teachers are identifying unique ways to provide feedback to students, the DOE said.

The resource for parents is available at bit.ly/HIDOEVirtualLearningParentResource.


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