Fire Alarm Causes Chaos

Nathan Penoyar, Staff Writer

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On Oct 16, the students taking the PSAT at Huron had to contend with a fire alarm going off. This caused a lot of worry among students and teachers due to the possibility of canceled scores. The fire alarm was triggered when a student in the Dome Gym was playing catch with his friends. he threw a football that was off target and instead hit the case protecting the fire alarm, knocking the case ajar. This caused the fire alarm to go off. As a result, students were evacuated from the school. 

“The building was evacuated,” assistant principal Marcus Edmonson said. “We always take safety seriously.”

The tests are run by the College Board, which is very strict when it comes to testing irregularities.

“When testing irregularities occur, we may cancel an administration or individual registrations, decline to score all or part of the test, or cancel the test score,” College Board spokesman Jerome White said. “We may do this whether or not the affected students caused the testing irregularities, benefited from them, or engaged in misconduct. We are solely responsible for determining whether testing irregularities have occurred, and our decisions are final.”

For many, this may not be as big of a deal, since the primary purpose of the PSAT is to be a practice test for the SAT, which the students can use to see what they need to study for the real SAT. 

The PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 are part of the SAT Suite of Assessments,” White said. “They assess the same skills and knowledge as the SAT, but at grade-appropriate levels.” 

However, the PSAT determines whether students can get a National Merit scholarship or not. This could mean thousands of dollars in scholarships for students who qualify. 

In addition to students, the administration was also worried. Had a student’s test scores been voided, they have the chance to take a makeup test on either Saturday, Oct 19 or Wednesday, Oct 30. 

When appropriate, we give affected test takers the opportunity to take the test again within a reasonable timeframe, without charge,” White said. 

However, the school does not offer either of the makeup tests, so students would be responsible for finding a place where they could take the test themselves. They would have to pay for this makeup as well. This would have been very time consuming and stressful for the students.

Fortunately, the PSAT/ NMSQT results were not voided by the College Board. However, the scare was enough to worry staffers.

“There was some concern that they [test scores] might be voided,” math teacher and test coordinator Philip Eliason said. “I wasn’t sure. I was a little panicked at first. The weight of an event like that happening knowing that these scores are being considered for National Merit made me panic a little bit. There were students that were concerned as well as some faculty members that were concerned about them not being eligible for National Merit qualification.”

Eliason is not new to helping run tests at Huron. However, it had been a while since the last time he had run the PSAT for Huron. The administration had been running the test the last several years, but that was not permitted by the College Board this year as Edmonson’s son is a Junior, which is a potential conflict of interest.

As a test coordinator for the school this year, Eliason had to contact the College Board and inform them of what had happened by filing an irregularity report. Eliason informed the College Board of what happened and what procedures the staff followed when dealing with the situation.

“The staff did an awesome job of keeping track of the timing and everything,” Eliason said. “They followed the procedure that they were supposed to. They just continued testing right where they left off and that’s exactly what the College Board wanted to happen.”

If the staff had not followed proper procedures, that could have changed the outcome, seeing as College Board reserves the exclusive right to cancel scores in cases of testing irregularities. 

Eliason took several steps to see what would happen to the tests that had been interrupted by the fire alarm.

“I first emailed [the College Board] with the problem and then I called them and got verbal confirmation that the scores would be considered for National Merit qualification,” Eliason said.