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Hawaii Board of Education may modify graduation requirements for Class of 2020

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaii’s public schools, including McKinley High, have been closed to students on March 19 and are expected not to reopen until April 30 at the earliest.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii’s public schools, including McKinley High, have been closed to students on March 19 and are expected not to reopen until April 30 at the earliest.

The Board of Education will meet Thursday to consider altering graduation requirements so seniors can get their diplomas on time despite the disruption of the COVID-19 quarantine that has closed public schools.

About 10,000 seniors are eligible to graduate this May at public schools across the state. The Department of Education is asking for permission to give school leadership at each campus flexibility in awarding diplomas, according to Superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

“The recommended action will allow students to continue moving forward with their future plans for advancement in school and in their lives,” she wrote in a memo to the board. “For the Class of 2020, a denial of this recommendation could jeopardize existing plans to attend college, join the military, or start careers as working professionals.”

Possible adjustments that could be made for students earning credits and certificates will be discussed at the board’s virtual meeting Thursday. The public may listen in to the meeting, which starts at 1:30 p.m., online or via phone. Written testimony may be submitted in advance by emailing Testimony.BOE@boe.hawaii.gov.

The department decided to recommend the flexible approach to graduation after holding a separate meeting with educational leaders, including assistant superintendents, complex area superintendents, and principals on March 25.

They discussed issues including high school credits, credit recovery, grades, diplomas and certificates. Ultimately they concluded the administration of each school would be best equipped to determine how students could meet academic requirements and graduate on time.

“The department remains hopeful that the COVID-19 situation will be contained by June 2020,” Kishimoto wrote in her memo to the board. “As a result, secondary schools anticipate being able to offer summer school and other credit recovery opportunities to compensate for the lost instructional days, including e-school options.”

The department is requesting a waiver from Board Policy 102-15, which spells out the requirements for graduation and commencement. To receive a diploma, seniors must earn 24 credits, including four in English, four in social studies, three each in math and science, as well as various other required courses.

At the March 25 meeting, school leaders also discussed how to handle commencement and are considering alternatives to the traditional ceremonies given social distancing requirements. The department plans to make a decision on commencement exercises by April 15.

Also on the agenda for the virtual meeting of the board Thursday is a proposal to skip the federally mandated standardized tests this spring that are administered every year. The U.S. Department of Education offered the option to cancel those tests, since campuses have shut and the tests cannot be conducted as usual.

Hawaii’s public schools have been closed to students since March 19 and are expected to remain shut until at least April 30. The department is still sorting out how to continue instruction. For now, educators have been preparing online “learning opportunities” and “learning packets” to be distributed to students, the department said. Those work packets will not be graded, but teachers working from home will provide feedback.

The department has also developed a resource for parents and students that is posted online at bit.ly/HIDOEVirtualLearningParentResource.

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