Testing for a Test: Juniors take PSATs with COVID-19 Precautions

Rebekah Lindsay, News Editor

     Select North Creek Juniors convened on campus Tuesday, January 26th to take the PSATs. Typically held in the fall, the test—offered through the College Board—is practice for the SATs and also serves as the National Merit Qualifying Test.  

     In-person test administration did not fit within the Northshore School District’s capabilities during the initial October date, so they opted to plan a safe procedure for the revised January date. 

     Prior to arriving on campus, students were required to have a negative COVID-19 test.     Testing the 390 students and staff members involved individually would be time-consuming, so a Bellingham lab administered batch tests by dividing the group into samples

     Junior Alexander Lindamood who participated in the January PSATs was surprised by this choice. “If your batch was positive you had to complete another individual test on Monday,” said Lindamood. “Luckily we didn’t get a call. So my batch was all good. But the entire experience was also just very strange.”

     While she was initially apprehensive about the logistics of the COVID-19 test, Junior Adya Sengupta appreciated the district’s precautionary measures. “You just had to take a little swab and swipe right on the entrance of your nostril which of course was not uncomfortable at all. Definitely not what I was expecting,” said Sengupta.

     In addition to requiring negative tests, the district enforced strict safety measures. “They made it abundantly clear that you had to have a mask. You couldn’t even step out of your car fully without a mask,” said Lindamood. Students and proctors also had to maintain six socially distant feet apart at all times. 

     Students were also assigned specific times to enter the building for check-in. “If your time was at 7:45 or something and you left your car at 7:43, they would send you back,” said Lindamood.

     During check-in, students were split into four groups—one on each floor of the first and second buildings. Lindamood took his test on the upper floor of the second building. “ It was all in the hallways. All the rooms were closed off, lights off, locked, and all the desks were facing towards the wall and towards the middle. All six feet away,” said Lindamood. 

     To promote airflow, all of the windows were open. “It was just painfully cold while you were taking the test,” said Lindamood.

     Other protocols included hand sanitizer, socially distant breaks, and bathroom limits. “One person was allowed at a time for the bathroom, and hand sanitizer on the way in so as to not contaminate, and obviously you wash your hands on the way out,” said Sengupta. 

     For Lindamood who previously participated in a ‘normal’ PSAT his sophomore year, the new guidelines were substantially different. “It was strange because during a test, whenever you get a break, you like to talk with your friends, but not here. I mean I stayed within a one-foot radius of my chair the entire time,” said Lindamood.

     Sengupta also stressed the importance of the PSATs. “For one, it’s practice for the SATs whenever I do end up taking it. And with the National Merit Scholarship being a possibility, it could be useful if I did score well,” said Sengupta. 

     However, both Lindamood and Sengupta were appreciative of the safety measures that allowed them to take the test. “I need to make sure that I’m able to get into the colleges that I need to pursue that career that I want. The PSAT is a stepping stone to help get me there,” said Lindamood.