Students express their thoughts over asynchronous week and regents exams cancellation

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On November 5, the Department of Education announced that the January 2021 Regents Examinations will be canceled due to the pandemic, effectively canceling Regents Week, which would have taken place between January 24 and January 29. In response to this, many NYC high school students, including Harrisites, have signed a petition to keep the Regents Week break. Aside from this petition, the Townsend Harris administration has figured out a way to make up for Regents Week by having an asynchronous week, giving students the opportunity to catch up on their work and for teachers to assign optional enrichment projects.

Interim State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced on behalf of the New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents that they “determined the January Regents Exams could not be safely, equitably and fairly administered across the State given where the pandemic currently stands.” Since the 2021 January Regents have been canceled, the Board of Education decided to announce proposed modifications to the Regents requirements for high school diplomas at the December board meeting for the Board of Regents. Modifications have yet to be announced to the public. These modifications will apply to high school students who were supposed to take one or more Regents exams and/or finish a secondary-level course this month. These exams will be recorded on transcripts with a score of “E” that stands for “exempt.”  

Some students were disappointed that the Regents exams were canceled this year. Senior Dominika Krzysiak said, “The Regents forced me in a way to review material learned and allowed me to refresh everything I have learned. It puts the responsibility rather than the option to study and makes me make study guides and flashcards and Quizlets.” AP US History teacher Mr. McCaughey said, “Regents week has traditionally been a great week to catch up on grading, plan for the second semester, and just catch my breath prior to the semester which can be quite long.”

Sophomore Niamh Symth at the Academy of American Studies started the petition on December 15 to challenge the Chancellor of the NYC DOE, Richard A. Carranza, and Mayor De Blasio’s decision. The petition has garnered over 14,870 signatures and is growing daily. Niamh shared her reasons for starting the petition and why other NYC high school students support it. She said, “This year has been nothing but stressful for everyone and especially for NYC high school students. Studying and learning from home has been nothing short of a challenge, especially when teachers give just as much work as they usually do.” She went on to discuss the deteriorating mental health status of students due to a number of hours staring at a screen, generating headaches and stress. 

Prior to the announced changes to regents week, Sophomore Niharika Ojha, who signed the petition, said, “I believe Regents week is still necessary because the week allows us to catch up on work. Just because the Regents are canceled doesn’t mean that we won’t have finals/midterms for certain classes. Hence, it is nice to be given time to just review work.” 

Sophomore Nowyshin Mridula said, “The one week off from school allowed me to study any topic I struggled with. For instance last academic year, I used this one week off to understand the structure of elements for Chemistry. These off days have also allowed me to be less stressed.”  

Mr. McCaughey proposed an alternative to Regents week. “I think all would benefit from an asynchronous week in light of the high volume of live instruction we have had thus far plus the overall stress of the year-long pandemic and civil unrest. Sometimes it’s good to just have a lighter week while still being productive.”

While students like Nowyshin had hoped the petition would lead the “DOE to reconsider the cancellation of regents week,” it has been made clear that public schools would remain in session next week. However, for Harrisites, learning will take place asynchronously during the week of January 25th.

The administration recently announced that January 25th – 27th will be fully asynchronous, allowing students to catch up on any missed work and have the chance to improve their grades and study for each class. January 28th is a “half-day” where students will attend each of their classes for seventeen minutes and participate in enrichment activities. The remainder of that day and January 29th will be asynchronous with the administration holding grade meetings for freshman and sophomores.

Image from Pixabay