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NY cancels January Regents exams as COVID cases surge

A student answers a question on a test using a pencil.

New York education Commissioner Betty Rosa canceled the January Regents on Tuesday, citing a “daunting” spike in coronavirus cases across the state.

PhotoAlto / Odilon Dimier / Getty Images

New York students won’t take Regents exams this January. New York education Commissioner Betty Rosa canceled the winter tests on Tuesday, citing a “daunting” spike in coronavirus cases across the state. 

No decisions have been made yet regarding the June and August exams, which far more students take. Officials previously said they planned to move forward with spring testing.

“Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the recent acceleration in COVID-19 infections, and continuing upheaval the virus has caused in schools across the state, this decision is the right one,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said in a statement. 

The state education department also said officials will seek approval from the Board of Regents to once again eliminate the exam requirement for graduation for students who had planned to take the January tests — as long as students pass the course that normally would culminate in taking a Regents. 

New York high schoolers typically must pass five Regents exams to graduate. Typically, about 300,000 students take the tests in January, while 1.6 million take them in the summer, according to figures officials previously shared with Chalkbeat. 

This will mark the third consecutive year of pandemic-related disruptions to the stalwart exit exams, which have been administered since the 1800s. Last year, the state canceled most Regents, and officials dropped the exams as a graduation requirement. Only the Regents exams in Algebra I, English, living environment, and earth science were given last year, because of federal testing requirements. 

New York City schools have been grappling with a sudden spike in coronavirus cases. Seven schools were closed as of Monday, city data shows. There were more than 300 full classroom closures, and almost 3,000 partial closures — representing an enormous disruption to learning for students. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned that the surge is expected to last through January. 

New York City schools close Friday for winter break, and students won’t return to buildings until Jan. 3. By then, there will be a new mayor: Eric Adams begins his term on New Year’s Day.

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