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Cold PSAT Exam Burns Some North Texas Students

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WICHITA FALLS (AP) - Some parents thought it was a joke when a North Texas school district announced high school students would be taking a major preliminary college entrance exam in an ice hockey arena.

But 258 students from Wichita Falls High School ended up taking the PSAT Wednesday seated at desks placed atop temporary flooring that covered an ice rink at Kay Yeager Coliseum.

“Ice is not an environment suitable for test-taking,” parent Stacie Curd said. “I think it was the dumbest thing the school district could have done.”

The Wichita Falls school district blamed the venue operator for failing to make the arena suitable, as promised. The operator blamed school administrators, saying they waited so long to choose a testing date that all the best sites were unavailable.

Students told principal Kevin Shipley that condensation from the cold made their chair desks so damp they first had to wipe them off before they could sit. There was so much moisture on the floors that “their feet got wet,” Shipley told The Wichita Falls Times Record News.

Several students complained it was too cold to concentrate so they quit midway through the three-hour exam, forfeiting any chance of becoming National Merit scholars or landing over major scholarships. The test is generally only given to juniors once a year in October.

Shipley and a principal from Rider High School originally signed a contract this summer to rent J.S. Bridwell Agriculture Center as Wednesday’s testing location.

But late last month, a Multi-Purpose Events Center employee told school officials that the agriculture center might not be suitable for testing because it does not have air conditioning and lacks good lighting. They also feared the animals and hay might trigger allergic reactions among students.

So the venue employee suggested moving both schools to the covered coliseum floor, and the schools agreed.

But last week, the employee told the schools that there wasn’t enough room at the coliseum for all the students who signed up to take the test — 608 total. So a space was found in an exhibit hall for the larger school while the students from the smaller school remained on the coliseum floor.

The venue employee assured the high school’s testing coordinator, Michael Weaver, that a temporary floor would be installed, an insulated barrier from the ice so “a comfortable temperature can be achieved,” according to a district statement.

“It was not climatized to the appropriate level for students to take the test,” Shipley said.

The Events Center’s executive director Bob Sullivan said coliseum’s temperature was 64 degrees but felt colder and wetter because the building lacks a dehumidifier. Sullivan said he charged the schools $1,500 to use the facilities — a $1,000 discount — because of the arena’s shortcomings.

College Board spokeswoman Kathleen Fineout Steinberg told The Associated Press it is “currently working with the school to understand the full scope of the situation and to discuss possible solutions.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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