Due to another spell of bitter cold temperatures, area school districts are being faced with closures during a crucial week of testing.
Schools have been making accommodations for students needing to sit for or improve upon their grades on New York state Regents examinations this week.
In many cases, schools have been working on transportation arrangements with their students a day in advance of their scheduled examinations in an effort to ensure that students will have an opportunity to take the exams. This is intended to save students much grief down the line, as the next opportunity to take any missed exams won't come around again until June.
According to Tim Mains, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, missing even one Regents exam may be the difference between many students graduating on time or not.
"The (Regents) exams are important on both a psychological level and a raw academic level of 'I can't graduate if I don't pass these exams,'" Mains said. "In the event of a school cancellation, there needs to be an alternative way of making sure students who need the exams get to take those exams. If we can't provide that, it can have a severely negative impact on students and their futures."
In order to prevent the implications a missed exam can have on students poised for graduation in June, Mains said JPS offered to bus students home following the exams in order to facilitate the students' ability to sit in on them.
"The policy at our high school is that only students who are taking Regents exams have to report to school," Mains said. "In Jamestown, that is a big number. Normally we wouldn't provide transportation, but the message I left with parents (Tuesday) morning said if they could get their children to school safely, we would provide transportation to get them home once they've taken their exams."
Mains said this was accomplished by having exam proctors ask students- prior to administering the exams - how many of them would require transportation. This allowed for a determination of how many bus drivers would be necessary for the task.
For students at Falconer Central School, the transportation accommodation was offered to get to students to and from the exams. According to Stephen Penhollow, Falconer superintendent, the district was willing to go to extra lengths to help out students during Regents week.
"We wanted to provide our students with as many opportunities as possible to pass the Regents exams because, in New York state, if you don't take the exams in January, you have to wait until June. And that can really affect the last year of scheduling for those kids," Penhollow said. "So we offered transportation to any kids that needed it. We talked with students prior to the day of the exam, and we've already talked to (Wednesday's) students in case we need to do it again tomorrow."
Penhollow said Falconer was fortunate that it was not forced to close on Monday when the ELA Regents exam - a requirement for all students - was given. He said the number of students taking exams throughout the remainder of the week is much smaller and more manageable.
For JPS students, however, the Regents exam schedule has a much smaller impact on the number of students needing to report. According to Mains, this is due to JPS' unique usage of block scheduling, whereby students are exposed to traditionally year-long courses within a single semester. So, while January's Regents exams are primarily designated for students needing to make up or retake exams in most districts, many JHS students are taking the January exams for the first time.
"Most of the other area districts are not like JHS," Mains said. "What makes us different from many of our sister districts around us is that we offer the bulk of our year-long courses on a semester basis. For us, it's not about people making up the exams; people are taking the exams for the first time and, if they can't take them now, they have to wait five or six months to take it for the first time. So, for example, Southwestern Central School had eight students taking exams (Tuesday) while we had 200."
While making transportation accommodations in order to allow students the opportunity to take the Regents exams is not an ideal situation for districts, it could be worse. Last year, a brutal snowstorm forced the closure of all area districts due to poor travel conditions on the day in which the ELA Regents exam was to be administered. This proved problematic for many students who needed to take the exam in order to graduate.
While freezing temperatures forced cancellations this year, the roads were navigable and the ELA exam went off without a hitch this time around. Area schools that were closed Tuesday included: Jamestown, Bemus Point, Randolph, Salamanca, Southwestern, Falconer, Cassadaga Valley, Chautauqua Lake, Clymer, Panama, Sherman, Westfield, Frewsburg and Pine Valley.