A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lt. Governor issues waiver of high school graduation requirements due to coronavirus pandemic

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Two provisions in state law that might have prevented some high school students from graduating this year have been waived due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, in her capacity as Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, issued a waiver that suspends the requirement that students who plan to graduate from high school in 2020 pass a civics test as well as certain requirements for completing an early high school graduation program.

The waiver was issued under the authority of an executive order signed by Gov. Andy Beshear on March 18, which grants cabinet secretaries and agency heads the power to waive or suspend parts of state law dealing with the current state of emergency.

Specifically, the waiver suspends the requirement that students pass a 100-question civics test to graduate from a Kentucky public high school, during the 2019-2020 school year. While most students who are scheduled to graduate at the end of the current school year have already completed this requirement, a small number had not done so prior to the Governor’s recommendation to suspend in-person classes beginning March 16.

There is an online option that will satisfy the requirement, but the Kentucky Department of Education recognizes that not all students have a computer and internet access. The suspension of this statute removes a barrier for students who would otherwise be graduating this spring.

The waiver also suspends a law spelling out requirements for completing an early high school graduation program, and receiving an Early Graduation Scholarship Certificate for use at a Kentucky public two-year community and technical college or a Kentucky four-year college or university. The suspension excludes current high school juniors who declared their intent to participate in the early high school graduation program prior to Jan. 1 from end-of-course examinations.

Those exams are provided by the Department of Education to school districts and are paper-based tests administered in schools. During the suspension of in-person classes and the need to practice social distancing, it is not practical to require early high school graduation program students to report to school for these exams.

The suspension of in-person activities at schools should not prevent juniors participating in the early high school graduation program from completing the program and qualifying for an Early Graduation Scholarship Certificate. Juniors who obtain a qualifying score on the ACT and who meet all other requirements set forth by state law will remain eligible for early graduation.

The requirement does remain in effect for high school freshmen and sophomores, who will have the opportunity to take the end-of-course exams in future school years.

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