By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Georgia school officials took steps Thursday to scrap final exams and relax a wide range of other accountability rules for the state’s nearly two million public-school students who have been out of class since last week due to the impacts of coronavirus.
The action Thursday came shortly before Gov. Brian Kemp ordered Georgia’s public schools to remain closed through April 24. The governor previously had ordered schools to stay closed through March 30.
A series of waivers approved Thursday will allow the more than 2,200 public and state schools to be exempted from 18 different requirements under state law such as the Milestone test and other student exams, teacher performance evaluations and course curriculum for the current school year.
The waivers also give local school districts more freedom to set formal class sizes that dictate state funding allocations and more leeway on how districts can spend their budgets.
Members of the state Board of Education unanimously approved the waivers at their monthly meeting Thursday, which was conducted over the phone.
School districts across Georgia totaling around 1.7 million students have been closed since last Monday under Kemp’s order. His executive order Thursday extended the original April 1 return date by roughly another three weeks.
Kemp is scheduled to host a televised town hall Thursday night at 8 p.m. to discuss the state’s response to coronavirus.
Speaking Thursday, State Superintendent Richard Woods said school systems have done well adapting to the challenge of keeping students healthy and engaged with virtual learning and remote meal programs.
“These past few weeks have been unique, but a lot of great things have been going on,” Woods said.
The board’s action Thursday came after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last week state school superintendents can seek exemptions from year-end tests, teacher evaluations and other measures that are normally required for states to secure federal education funding.
Kemp also gave the state school board authority to approve the waivers as part of his emergency powers that the General Assembly granted him earlier this month.