This week's school closings may result in more headaches than happiness for many area students.
On Tuesday, several districts in southern Chautauqua County were forced to cancel classes and school-related activities due to inclement weather and bitter cold temperatures. Unfortunately for students, the extra day off also coincided with the first day of testing for the January session of New York State Regents exams.
The exams take place three times throughout the year, including week-long sessions in January, June and August. The exams administered on Tuesday included: integrated algebra, comprehensive English, physical setting/physics and a Regents competency test in global studies.
Among the districts affected by a missed school day were Southwestern Central School, Falconer Central School and Jamestown Public Schools. While the students will have the opportunity to take the exams in the June session, administrators are seeking any potential alternatives that would allow students to make them up in advance.
"We're working with (the) state education (department) to find out what might be available," said Deke Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools. "Worst case scenario, (testing in June) is what we'll be reduced to. We need to wait and figure out a plan to see what the options are from Albany, and we'll likely need to figure out a plan for the instructional side to see what the second semester holds for these kids."
"We're assessing (our options), but I know that in past years, the Education Department has never allowed provisions for (students affected by closings)," said Maureen Donahue, superintendent of Southwestern.
Donahue's statement was corroborated by Antonia Valentine, an employee of the Education Department. According to Valentine, Regents exams are only given on their scheduled dates for security purposes, and the only option the students have is to take the missed exams during the June session.
This option provides good and bad news to those students who were negatively affected. On one hand, students who plan on graduating this summer will have an opportunity to take the missed exams in order to do so. On the other hand, these students have been denied one of their two chances at passing the exams, and will not have the benefit of a retake.
Steve Penhollow, superintendent of Falconer Central School, said the decision to cancel school during Regents week was a difficult one to make.
"The safety of our kids is our No.1 concern and getting them to and from school is our utmost priority," he said. "When looking at (the situation), we were aware that it was Regents week, but the safety concerns were our priority."
According to Penhollow, Falconer has talked with Erie-2 BOCES in hopes that the state will look into other options for students to make up the exams.
"The problem is that, right now, there are no make-ups for these tests unless we get a recommendation for a change from the Education Department," he said. "(The exams) are secure and will remain secure, and that's been standard protocol from the Education Department. But we're hoping that we'll hear back from them."