Riverhead High School File photo: Denise Civiletti

January’s high school regents exams have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York State Department of Education announced yesterday.

The standardized tests, which are administered by the state and required to pass to obtain certain degrees, were scheduled for Jan. 25-28 for students at Riverhead High School. Diploma requirements will be changed for students who are taking classes culminating in a January regents exam to allow them to be exempt from the exams.

The cancellation comes in the wake of a winter coronavirus case surge, with the omicron variant leading the charge. The statewide coronavirus test positivity rate was over 10% yesterday, with Suffolk County’s being pushed to nearly 14%.

“New York set a daunting record last week with more COVID-19 cases reported in one day than ever before,” State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said in a press release. “Once again, the January Regents Exams cannot be safely, equitably, and fairly administered across the state. We will continue to work with our schools, districts, and stakeholders to ensure they have what they need to provide academic, social and emotional, and mental health supports for our students.”

The June 2020 regents exams were canceled amidst the first wave of the coronavirus. Last school year’s standardized tests in June were canceled for students who were fully remote, but required for in-person students. The education department said no decisions have been made regarding the June and August 2022 regents examinations or other assessments.

“Educators, school staff, communities, and families have taken painstaking efforts to ensure a safe and healthy school year,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said in a press release. “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. New York’s students will continue to have access to high-quality coursework while allowing districts to prioritize the health and safety of our school communities.”

Riverhead Central School District Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christine Tona did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]