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National Spelling Bee canceled for first time since World War II

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The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been canceled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus outbreak, the organization announced Tuesday. The decision surely spells disappointment for the students hoping to participate this year. 

The 2020 national finals were originally scheduled for the end of May in National Harbor, Maryland. The organization announced in March it was suspending the finals and hoped to reschedule at a later date. Now, the event is canceled altogether, as the organization said it has "determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date" this year. 

"Our thoughts immediately go to our spellers and their families. The students have dedicated time and effort to their passion for learning. They should be proud of all they have accomplished by winning spelling bees at the classroom, school and regional level," said executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Paige Kimble in a press release. "Nevertheless, our first priority has to be the health and well-being of our spellers and their families and the hundreds of staff and spectators that come together for Bee Week."

The organization added that they will "recognize"  in the "coming months spellers who have already been declared champions in regional competitions." Some of the regional champions are in eighth grade — the last school year kids can participate in the program — so 2020 would have been their last year to try to claim the national title.

"Our hearts go out to the spellers who won't get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make," said Kimble. "They are now part of a widely expanding group of children and adults who are missing out on opportunities due to the coronavirus."

The program, which began in 1925, had only previously canceled the national finals during World War II from 1943-1945, said the organization. The 2021 finals are currently scheduled to take place from June 1-3 2021.

Last year, the Spelling Bee ended in an unprecedented way — with the organizers crowning eight spellers as co-champions. The students all spelled the final 47 words correctly in the historic bee and earned the full $50,000 cash prize.

The Spelling Bee is now added to an increasingly expanding list of events and activities pushed due to the pandemic. Movie premieres, professional sports, music festivals and major cultural events, such as the famed Munich Oktoberfest, have all been canceled or postponed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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