Scripps National Spelling Bee canceled for first time since 1945 because of coronavirus pandemic

Canceled. C-A-N-C-E-L-E-D. Origin: Latin. Used in a sentence: The National Spelling Bee is the latest event to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This is the first cancelation of the Spelling Bee since 1945 — when the event was cancelled for three straight years due to World War II. Scripps announced the cancelation on Tuesday, but said it will return next year, currently scheduled from June 1 to 3. 

“The Bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020,” Scripps said in the statement, adding there is “uncertainty around when public gatherings will be possible or advisable.”

A virtual bee was proposed, but it was determined that it would be too difficult to carry out successfully. 

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is an in-person live event, the same way that a basketball game is or a football game or a soccer game or a tennis match,” said Paige Kimble, the event’s executive director — and 1981 champion. “It’s just not something that can be effectively transferred to the virtual world.”

Unfortunately for current eighth grade spelling whizzes, they are missing out on their last chance of being crowned champion. 

Since the start in 1925, the bee has been restricted to elementary and middle school students. They will be sticking to this for the next bee and will not be extending the age or making any exceptions for next year. 

“My heart goes out to every one of those kids affected,” Kimble said. “As a former speller, all I can say is I can only imagine, and my heart breaks for them. Our eighth-grade spellers are much like the class of 2020 high school seniors, in the ranks of many enduring heartbreak as a result of these pandemic circumstances.”

To get their spelling fix, some of the would-be contestants are participating in a different online competition run by SpellPundit. It offers $2,500 to the winner, which is a bit different from the $50,000 Scripps hands out to the champ.

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