Would-be test-takers were turned away from Deering and Portland high schools on Saturday morning after administrators canceled the SATs in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Some parents said they weren’t notified beforehand. Instead, they arrived before 8 a.m. to closed doors and, they say, no signs or people to tell them what had happened. They waited together for about 45 minutes in the cold, and then gave up.

“If the purpose of the cancellation was to prevent students from gathering in close proximity, that effort clearly failed,” Jim Morris, who waited on the steps of Portland High with his daughter and several other students, said in an email Saturday.

Parents reported a similar scene outside Deering High School, which was also scheduled to hold an exam Saturday morning. The cancellation wasn’t listed on the website of the College Board, the New York nonprofit that administers the SAT.

“Our apologies,” said Sheila Jepson, principal of Portland High, on learning that the cancellation hadn’t been posted with the College Board. “Things were happening very quickly yesterday and it was obviously an oversight on our part.”

Jepson later pointed out that administrators had notified local station WGME-TV, which added the SAT tests to its list of cancellations. But parents appeared to have been relying on the College Board site to know whether or not tests were still on.


The coronavirus, which has sickened more than 150,000 around the globe, made its first appearance in Maine this past week. A presumptive positive test in Androscoggin County was followed by two more possible cases in Maine – one a worker at the city of Portland’s India Street health clinic, another a woman in her 20s. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced three other likely cases on Saturday.

A presumptive positive means a test by local authorities has not been confirmed yet in testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A series of letters on the coronavirus response from Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana to the community last week did not mention that weekend tests would be canceled. The latest letter, on Friday, announced the suspension of parent-teacher conferences, school assemblies, spring sports and adult enrichment classes.

Botana also left open the possibility of shutting down schools altogether if necessary later. If that were to happen, a notice would go out as it does for severe weather notifications, he said.

The College Board will be responsible for choosing new testing dates, Jepson said.

Morris, the parent turned away, said the mixup wouldn’t affect his daughter’s plans. But “I am sure there were others in the crowd who were counting on this specific test date,” he said. “Many kids take the test more than once to try to improve scores.”

On Thursday, the College Board announced that it would refund fees for canceled tests and work with testing sites to schedule makeup exams. The statement did not address the possibility of online testing.

The next regularly scheduled SAT dates are in May and June, according to the company’s announcement.

Comments are not available on this story.