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Tests complicate school closing decision

Clifton Springs, N.Y. -- The extreme cold has put educators and students in an unusual situation, with the cold blast hitting during the week of mid-year Regents exams.

"We all hesitate to close school always," said Mike Ford, superintendent of Phelps-Clifton Springs Central Springs District. "But this is the right time for them to take these test, no doubt about that."

If the tests are not taken as scheduled, students have to wait until June to make up the tests.

"These are exams where there is only one copy given statewide and one version of the test," Ford said. "So once it's given, it cannot be given the next day or five hours later."

Ford said schools don't want students to have to wait five months, but safety is the top priority.

"For the students who have been preparing for these tests, we'd like them to get the tests in," Ford said. "But I have a feeling that I could safely say every school will make the decision based on safety and not on tests."

The Canandaigua City School District cancelled school Monday, along with the exams due to the extreme cold and poor road conditions.

"If they have missed one in January that they could have put aside, then their schedule is also more full in June," said Andy Thomas, Canandaigua's district community relations coordinator. "They're going to have to study more things and it just makes things more difficult."

As the wind chill is expected to hit -25 degrees Tuesday, Thomas said the district will administer the tests for the rest of the week no matter what the weather brings.

"They're prepared, they're ready to go, let's do it," Thomas said.

The Canandaigua City School District will contact the high schools students who are scheduled to take the tests and provide buses to anyone who needs a ride to school.

The New York State Education Department clarified its guidelines for testing Monday that schools can continue testing, even if it's too cold to hold classes, as long as road conditions are OK.

"We could allow the younger children to be home and just have the older children come in for their test the state has given up that permission today," Ford said. "It's not as easy as that."

Ford said having some students and staff in for the day can cause problems both internally with different contractual obligations, as well as for families who depend on high school students to watch their younger siblings.

With input from administrators, teachers and students, the debate on what do during this cold blast has many districts on different pages.

While Canandaigua schools have pledged to stay open for testing, others have already cancelled Tuesday and others are waiting until tomorrow morning to decide.


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Washington Times