Chancellor Betty A. Rosa speaks to members of the New...

Chancellor Betty A. Rosa speaks to members of the New York State Board of Regents during a meeting at the State Education Department Building on Feb. 10, 2020, in Albany. Credit: Hans Pennink

New York’s K-12 public schools officially are closed until April 29, but the reality is that students are not returning to their classrooms this academic year.

And even if the students were able to return, in May or June, many would not have time to get ready for Regents exams that have, for decades, been a key qualification for a high school diploma.

So the governing Board of Regents was right this week to cancel the high-profile Regents exams and to loosen a host of graduation requirements, many related to those tests. Maintaining the traditional requirements would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for many students who’ve put in 12 years of hard effort and done all that is asked of them to receive their diplomas.

It’s also fair that the Regents test exemption applies to students who are not seniors but would have taken one of those tests this June that was essential to meet graduation requirements down the road. These students should not be required to repeat a class just to take a test. What does need to be a priority is an intense effort during next year’s fall semester to make sure kids in all grades learn what they may have missed and lost during their extended physical absence.

Students affected by this year’s closure shouldn’t be required to take Regents exams in algebra or English to get a diploma, but they should master those subjects as part of a proper education.

The cancellation of the Regents final exams, as well as state standardized tests in English and math for students in third to eighth grades, should not be a cause for anxiety. This is an emergency, and such steps do make sense.

So, probably, do other moves the Regents made, like canceling assessments of students, teachers, schools and districts, postponing implementing the state’s next set of English and math learning standards from 2021 to 2022, and postponing implementation of new science learning standards from 2022 to 2023.

What would be a mistake, though, is letting this momentary relaxation of standards become the norm.

That’s a real danger in New York, where the state is in a two-year reexamination of graduation standards that features some factions that want to move away from set exam requirements. And it’s particularly alarming in a state where throngs of parents refuse to let their children sit for standardized tests and every attempt to create a teacher evaluation system that takes a teacher’s measurable success in educating students into account has been beaten back.

Students whose educations have been impacted by the coronavirus don’t deserve to lose out on diplomas. But all of New York’s students, now and in the future, do deserve rigorous standards that pave the way for the education they need to be productive and knowledgeable adults.

Letting the coronavirus spur us to provide anything less would put our children at risk.

— The editorial board