Admin: PAUSD will not host PSAT in October

Tara Kapoor, Senior Staff Writer

In light of COVID-19 school closures, neither Palo Alto High School nor Gunn High School will administer the PSAT exam at the planned Oct. 15, 17 and 29 dates this semester, according to Assistant Principal Margaret Reynolds.

“We’re not permitted to have students on campus,” Reynolds said. “Unfortunately our hands are tied in that regard.”

The Palo Alto Unified School District stated on the district website that “full physical reopening will be considered at checkpoints commencing on Sept. 11.” Reopening schools on Oct. 12 is the earliest feasible option if the county is cleared for a full two weeks on the County Checklist, as Superintendent Don Austin stated in the Secondary Town Hall on Aug. 4. However, Reynolds said that PAUSD will not consider in-person testing in October, as the reopening would not meet the Sept. 16 deadline for ordering October PSAT materials.

Furthermore, Reynolds noted that if a PAUSD school administers the exam, it will only be available to students attending the school at which it takes place — that is, Paly students would not be permitted to take the exam at Gunn if it were hosted there, or vice versa.

Elimination of the PSAT exam this October jeopardizes the opportunity for current juniors to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship — a prestigious honor for both college admissions and financial support. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation presents $2,500 merit scholarships for the first year of college tuition, corporate-sponsored scholarships and college-sponsored scholarships to awardees.

Many juniors are concerned over the potential loss of such opportunities afforded by the PSAT.

“It [The PSAT] rewards hard work,” junior Madison Abbassi said. “I really want to take the PSAT for the National Merit opportunity and I’d definitely feel disappointed if I couldn’t take it.”

Reynolds said Paly will work to ensure students receive a chance to qualify in the case that exams are not hosted this school year by supporting requests to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for alternate entries. Students must write to the NMSC as soon as possible to receive a form to request alternate entry, according to Reynolds, which will then be evaluated by the NMSC.

“Even if you have everything else in place and you haven’t been able to do this [take the PSAT], you are able to write to them [the NMSC],” Reynolds said.

To remedy the loss of opportunity for PSAT testing amid the lack of available exam centers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College Board announced plans for an additional PSAT date on Jan. 21, 2021. Regulations permitting, PAUSD could potentially administer the exam on this date, according to Reynolds.

“It’s just a matter of making sure we fall under the appropriate restrictions and guidelines,” Reynolds said. “Once we’re permitted to have students on campus and we’ve been given permission from the district office that we can offer testing on a large scale, such as we would for the PSAT or the SAT, we are very interested.”

This measure will allow students to be eligible for consideration in the National Merit Scholarship despite missing the October PSAT.

All things considered, Reynolds said the Paly administration views the PSAT as paramount and anticipates holding the exams as soon as physically possible.

“It is a high priority,” Reynolds said. “Our kids need it.”