Washington high school seniors who are out of class because of the spread of the novel coronavirus may catch a break from certain graduation requirements.

The Washington State Board of Education is considering emergency rules giving school districts and private schools power to waive statewide course requirements for students who are on track to graduate this spring. The rules wouldn’t excuse students from completing a High School and Beyond Plan or local graduation requirements.

What, exactly, it means to be “on track” hasn’t yet been finalized. But at its meeting on Thursday, board members generally agreed that it may include seniors who are enrolled in, or intending to enroll in, courses that fulfill the state’s 24-credit graduation requirement.

Schools in Washington are closed until at least April 24. Although state officials have asked educators to continue instruction remotely, school closures have raised concern that remote instruction will be uneven — and that some students may lose out on learning entirely. School districts are now considering changing grading systems and weighing whether it’s appropriate to require students to complete assignments while buildings are closed. Such changes may affect credit students earn for their work. High school seniors could be particularly hard hit.

The emergency waiver would help protect these students by giving them a reprieve from some coursework. If new rules are approved, individual school districts could complete a waiver application that shows they’ve made a good-faith effort to help high school seniors meet course requirements. If the Board of Education approves the application, school districts could decide to excuse students from credit requirements on a case-by-case basis.

The board didn’t approve a new graduation policy, but plans to draft, review and vote on rules by April 8.


Among the questions the board needs to consider: what “good faith effort” means and whether to set limits on the type or amount of credits that can be waived.

The waiver wouldn’t apply to students in earlier grades, but several board members said they hope to address these students’ needs in future meetings.

And since the waiver excuses students from coursework — but doesn’t grant credit — the move could keep some students from enrolling in colleges that require certain credits for entry. The state board is currently working with Washington colleges and universities to address this, but hasn’t yet found a solution.