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State Education Department to cancel Regents exams

The New York State Regents exams scheduled for June will be canceled due to the spread of Covid-19, providing yet another indicator that the odds of returning to the classroom this school year are shrinking.

The state Education Department is expected to formally announce the cancellation of the June Regents exams on Tuesday, along with guidance to school districts on how to handle the fallout, said Betty A. Rosa, chancellor of the Board of Regents, the department's governing body.

The board met via conference call for its regular monthly meeting on Monday, when it adopted a series of emergency regulations to provide students and educators more educational flexibility while schools are shut down because of the pandemic.

Two hours into the meeting, Rosa made only a brief, passing comment about the cancellation of the Regents exams.

She told the board that after "very thoughtful and deliberate review" a public announcement about the exams will be made Tuesday.

"It is obvious from this statement that we will be canceling Regents exams," Rosa said during the conference call.

Rosa went on to say that all the material school districts would need to address the issue will be provided Tuesday and that the state's guidance focuses on what's in the best interest of students for this year.

Rosa did not provide any more clarification, but a spokesperson for the state Education Department later confirmed the cancellation and that more details would be forthcoming.

"It was a good and inevitable decision," Mark Laurrie, superintendent of the Niagara Falls City School District said Monday.

Students are required to pass five Regents exams and accrue 22 credit hours of coursework to obtain a Regents diploma before exiting high school.

[Related: Regents exams being put to test as state undertakes balancing act]

Cancelling the exams raises a lot of questions:

Which students should get credit?

How does it affect graduations?

And how might it impact high school transcripts for college?

Rosa also didn't mention whether the cancellation included the August Regents exams, as well.

"Those are the details we'll really need to study tomorrow," Laurrie said.

The state Education Department last month suspended the third-through-eighth grade state assessments for this year.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo extended the Covid-19 school closures until April 29. Public schools in Erie County had been scheduled to be closed through April 20.

So the cancellation of the Regents exams, while not a big surprise, is another sign that the window for returning to school this year is closing.

"I think it's another indicator that we may not be returning," Laurrie said, before referring to the pandemic. "And 'may' is the operative word there, along with the peak projections, the need for more ventilators and the fact that we want to do this right."

Kriner Cash, superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, made similar comments last week when he told the Board of Education he didn't expect to reopen this school year with health experts predicating new coronavirus cases won't peak until mid-May.

"And then you don't come back at the height of the epicenter," Cash said. "You then need time to have it slow down. ... We're just a long way off from that.

"In short," Cash said. "I don’t see us coming back this year. ... Not in any safe way and not in any thoughtful, reasonable way. If I think there's any degree of safety involved with this I won't deal with it. I won’t tolerate it. I’ll fight it."

News Staff Reporter Mary Pasciak contributed to this story.

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