The class of 2020 has had anything but a normal senior year — with prom, sports, and standardized tests cancelled under Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide month-long school shutdown amid a global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Edwards said he’d follow the lead of President Donald Trump who announced the day prior he would extend his social distancing recommendations through the end of April. Edwards’ current order expires April 13.
“I will, by the end of the week extend the current order for shelter at home and school closure and so forth to at least April 30,” he said, noting that would only leave one month in the academic year.
He said he told Louisiana Department of Education’s interim superintendent to prepare for that possibility.
“She is working with the school superintendents from around the state of Louisiana as it relates to graduation, promotion to the next grade, all of those things,” he said, noting families could likely expect more information from the department this week. “Obviously they’re going to make the smartest, most strategic decision they can. And for the maximum benefit of our young people.”
Those timelines could begin to push up against mid-May high school graduation ceremonies. Some local universities have cancelled graduation.
Earlier this month, Edwards and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education waived several requirements for schools, including specific carve-outs for seniors, such as instructional minute minimums, end-of-course exams, and other non-academic requirements, like filling out financial aid applications.
But it’s not clear what seniors exactly must do to graduate this spring. We asked Louisiana Department of Education spokeswoman Sydni Dunn that question.
“We are issuing guidance related to the graduating Class of 2020 later this week,” Dunn wrote in an email Monday afternoon.
The state offers several types of diplomas and each requires a different set of specific requirements. But generally, they require students to attend school for a minimum number of minutes each year, pass classes to earn a set number of Carnegie units and pass three end-of-course exams.
In response to Dunn’s update, NOLA Public Schools issued a statement Monday afternoon that said district staff were working with high school counselors and leaders across the city.
“Right now, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) is putting specific guidance together related to how to address graduation requirements in light of this crisis, so at this time, families should stay positive, focused, and continue to engage directly with your school on the most up to date information and expectations for graduation.”
The district had dramatically increased its monitoring of high school graduation eligibility and tracking in the city’s charter schools this school year. That effort came after about half the graduating class of 2019 at John F. Kennedy High School learned after their ceremony last spring that they hadn’t been eligible to graduate.
Update: This story was updated with a statement from NOLA Public Schools and with information from Gov. Edwards’ press conference.