Up to three-fourths of the county’s public high school students have been asked to stay home today to make room for testing on campus.

High school freshmen, sophomores and seniors throughout Pitt County Schools will have a remote learning day while an estimated 1,600 juniors are expected to report to one of eight high school campuses to take the ACT. The standardized test, which is used for college admissions, is being administered in counties across North Carolina today.

University of North Carolina system schools made headlines last summer by joining schools across the nation that are waiving ACT and SAT requirements for 2021 applicants. But Pitt County Schools Public Information Officer Jennifer Johnson said that this year’s testing for high school juniors remains a state requirement.

“It’s not just something that juniors can use (for college admissions); it’s also an accountability measurement for Pitt County Schools,” she said. “Our schools have to give them and our students have to have 95 percent participation.”

The ACT was administered on high school campuses across the district in February 2020 prior to shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Last March, the federal government waived requirements for standardized tests for students in kindergarten through 12th grade due to COVID-19. But Johnson said the previous testing waiver expired in July.

Today is not the first time this school year that full-time virtual students as well as in-person learners have been asked to come to campus for testing. End-of-course and Career and Technical Education tests were administered in December, prompting some parents of full-time virtual students to complain to the Board of Education that there should have been alternatives to on-campus testing.

“We just want families to know that we understand that there will be some virtual students who have never been on campus (this school year) or it may have been a while since they’re been on campus, but that we are adhering to all of the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) protocol for safety,” Johnson said.

“That’s why we are limiting the number of students in a room,” she said. “It was necessary for us to have our ninth-graders, our 10th-graders and our 12th-graders have a virtual learning day so that our juniors could take the test safely.”

Precautions that schools are using to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 include requiring face coverings, maintaining 6 feet of distance between people and performing symptom and temperature screenings for anyone entering the building.

Johnson said schools have trained additional teachers to administer the ACT in order to ensure that students can be appropriately distanced during testing, which is not expected to take the full school day. Transportation and breakfast will be available for students, including full-time virtual learners.

The ACT and the ACT WorkKeys became part of the state’s school accountability program in the 2012-13 school year. North Carolina is among about a dozen states that require every junior to take the exam, which is multiple choice and includes subject tests on English, math, reading, science and writing.

Students participating in the statewide ACT administration are not required to pay the $70 testing fee and can have results shared with as many as four colleges at no cost to them.

“We want our students to have that ACT score free of charge for college admissions,” Johnson said. “This is a great opportunity for students to do their best in a safe environment in order to potentially have those ACT scores for applying to college next year.”

High school juniors who are unable to report to campus for testing today may contact their school for information about an assigned makeup day.

Contact Kim Grizzard at kgrizzard@reflector.com or call 329-9578.