A request to scrap end-of-year tests for Georgia public schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic drew overwhelming support from students, teachers, parents and others during a two-week comment period, state school officials said Thursday, July 23.

The state Department of Education is seeking a waiver from the federal government to skip the Georgia Milestones and other reporting requirements for the 2020-21 school year. 

Per the waiver, the state is also seeking a pass on accountability requirements including the annual report card and the College and Career Readiness Index.

The waiver requires public input via a survey that fielded nearly 99,000 responses across the state in just two weeks, school officials said during at state Board of Education meeting Thursday, July 23. 

Of those responses, roughly 96% supported the federal government giving Georgia a break from the year-end tests and reporting requirements. And 93% backed waiving the accountability requirements.

State officials are still awaiting word on whether the waiver will be approved. 

Meanwhile, local school districts are hustling to wrap up safety plans allowing students to return for classes during the pandemic with both in-person and online instruction, depending on the district.

Education board members did not take up any discussion Thursday, July 23, on whether to ask local districts to delay their fall semester start dates. Districts are largely scheduled to resume classes in early August. 

State officials have issued guidelines and recommendations aimed at helping local school districts decide how to hold classes in the fall via a mix of regular in-person classes and online instruction options.

Several districts have elected to go online-only for the first few weeks, creating challenges such as how schools will track attendance but easing safety concerns expressed by many parents, teachers and public health experts. 

Gov. Brian Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods have said they favor in-person instruction over long periods of online learning but will support the decisions local districts make.

Standardized tests were suspended for the 2019-20 school year as in-person classes closed across the state and Georgia’s roughly 1.7 million students switched to online learning starting in late March, as positive cases of the virus began to swell. 

School officials say resuming the tests would both complicate classroom learning already challenged by social distancing restrictions and hurt the budgetary bottom line for local schools as districts grapple with $950 million in spending cuts statewide.

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