Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced Tuesday that high school seniors who were on track to earn a diploma later this spring will be able to graduate, despite the closure of schools for the remainder of the year.

The school year was canceled Monday by Gov. Ralph Northam as a means of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

"The governor and I agree that every student who was on a trajectory toward earning a diploma should be able to graduate on time and move on to the next stage of his or her life," Lane said in a prepared statement. "I hope the flexibility that I am announcing today will help students and teachers as they cope with the deep disappointment of having their time together unexpectedly cut short and of not being able to enjoy the recognitions and celebrations that should be a part of every student's graduation experience."

High school seniors in the following categories will be able to graduate on time, despite the closure of schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year, according to the release:

  • Seniors enrolled in a course for which they need a standard or verified credit in order to graduate (verified credits are earned by passing a required course and also passing the associated Standards of Learning test).
  • Seniors who have successfully completed a course required for graduation but have not earned the verified credit.
  • Seniors who have not passed a required student-selected SOL test.

Virginia is working on waiving the SOL tests.

Lane stated flexibility also is available for seniors who have not earned a required career and technical education credential, seniors who have not completed a fine or performing arts course or CTE course, seniors who were unable to complete sequential course requirements, and seniors who have not completed a course in economics and personal finance.

"The vast majority of our high school seniors have already met most of the commonwealth's rigorous graduation requirements," Lane stated.

Shenandoah County Superintendent Mark Johnston said the announcement was expected. He said he had just gotten the information Monday and he did not know the number of students who would now qualify to graduate as he had not had time to go through the district's caseload.

The state Department of Education also detailed educational options for students in other grades regarding instruction in required coursework, either while schools are closed, over the summer or during 2020-2021 school year, including the following, according to the release:

  • Using distance/remote, face-to-face or blended learning or learning modules while schools are closed with plans to ensure equitable access.
  • Offering instruction during the summer of 2020.
  • Extending the 2019-2020 calendar or adjusting the 2020-2021 calendar to allow for instruction in core content not covered by March 13, 2020. 
  • Incorporating learning modules into an extension of the 2019-2020 school year or the existing 2020-2021 schedule.

Johnston said they are still considering the options of what they might do regarding how other grades might make up the coursework.

Any student or parent with questions can visit  www.shenandoah.k12.va.us/covid-19-information-resource-center-051b72d9# and click on FAQ tab.

Johnston said the site may already have some questions answered as they have been responding to questions.

Warren County Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard did not respond to emails or phone calls for an interview by deadline.

Contact Melissa Topey at mtopey@nvdaily.com