State Board of Education passes waivers to help districts during coronavirus closings

GEORGIA — The State Board of Education has passed a series of waivers it hopes will give local school districts flexibility to continue on through the end of the year while at the same time dealing with the coronavirus health crisis. The waivers cover a number of topics from the Georgia Milestones Test to the length of the school year to requirements for graduation and promotion.

“We want to ensure school districts have the flexibility to focus primarily on their students’ health and safety as we all get through this time together,” said Georgia Department of Education spokesperson Meghan Frick. “We’re trying to take anything off their plate that we can while ensuring the smallest possible impact on students.”

The waiver, passed by the BOE Thursday, allow districts to postpone or cancel end-of-the-year testing. It also allows districts who still want to give the Milestone test the ability to reduce its overall impact on students’ final grades. One waiver allows districts to alter the size of classes while another allows them to reduce the number of days in a school year. Another allows them to alter, even reduce requirements for promotion and graduation.

Jennifer Chase lives in Paulding County and is mother to two school boys, Easton and Beckham. Easton is in fifth grade and was supposed to take the Milestones Tests in a few weeks.

“Kind of a relief for us, because if they do end up back in school, it would’ve started up almost immediately which would’ve been really challenging for parents and teachers, I’m sure,” Chase said.

The Georgia Association of Educations supports most of the waivers but is concerned about what happens next year. They worry that teachers will still be evaluated on those tests or student performances even though those students are now learning from home.

Gov. Brian Kemp recently extended his executive order suspending the public school year across Georgia to April 24 as state officials try to contain the spread of COVID-19.