The Washington State Board of Education may extend a program that waives some graduation requirements for students who’ve faced hardships during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the board approved a proposal to extend the lifetime of the waiver program by two years, allowing the class of 2024 — students who were high school freshmen at the time of the 2020 school shutdowns — to qualify. The board will vote on making the proposal permanent in May after gathering public feedback.

In 2020, the state began awarding school districts the ability to waive certain graduation requirements in light of the pandemic. Nearly 17% of students who graduated high school in 2020 had a waiver, and 13% of graduates received one in 2021.

Under the current program, which is slated to end with the Class of 2022, school districts may waive up to two credits or one of the state’s graduation pathway requirements — a list of ways students can show they’re prepared for the world beyond high school, which can include passing a state exam or completing a sequence of career and technical education courses.

The proposal expands this flexibility to the class of 2023. The class of 2024, however, would have less wiggle room. Those students may only waive up to one core credit, and they won’t be given a reprieve from pathway requirements, the rationale being that they had more time to make up for academic issues due to school closures, said Randy Spaulding, the board’s executive director.

Educators must use discretion in granting the waiver; students must have been otherwise on the road to graduating high school but facing academic challenges due to circumstances out of their control, such as a loss of in-person services at their school. School districts must also use the waivers as a last resort when they’ve exhausted all other efforts to help a student acquire the necessary credits.

In 2021, social studies and language arts were the courses most frequently waived through the program, according to a report about the program given to state lawmakers. Combined, they accounted for about half of the courses waived that year.