April 21 (UPI) -- Scripps National Spelling Bee officials on Tuesday canceled the 2020 national finals citing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The national finals were originally scheduled to be held in Maryland in May and officials last month suspended the national finals with plans to reschedule. On Tuesday, though, organizers announced there was "no clear path to safely set a new date" in 2020.
"Our thoughts immediately go to our spellers and their families. The students have dedicated time and effort to their passion for learning," Paige Kimble, the Scripps National Spelling Bee's executive director, said. "They should be proud of all they have accomplished by winning spelling bees at the classroom, school and regional level. 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 Bee said it will recognize champions from more than 150 regional programs "in the coming months."
This year is the first time the national finals have been canceled since World War II.
Eight champions split the 2019 spelling bee title after tying for five consecutive rounds.
Each winner received a cash prize of $50,000.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker extended the closure of K-12 schools and non-emergency childcare programs through the end of the school year in an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
The extended closures were issued through an emergency order, his office said in a statement, adding the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will issue guidelines for schools to support remote learning.
Massachusetts joins 36 other states, 3 U.S territories and the District of Columbia to have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic calendar, according to Education Week.