As students checked in for the exam at Matanzas High, the School Board member told testing staff that students did not have to wear masks.
School Board member Janet McDonald said she was assured last year that students taking the SAT in Flagler County would have a choice to wear a mask or not during the three-hour college admission exam.
She said she was “shocked to hear at the last minute” that masks would be required by all students taking the exam at Matanzas High School on Saturday morning, Dec. 4.
McDonald said after a Flagler Schools administrator told her students taking the test would have a choice and then hearing from students that they were told that wouldn’t be the case, she went to the school during the test's check-in and told coordinators and proctors that the students do not have to wear masks.
The SAT is administered by the College Board, a non-profit organization founded in 1900.
According to the health and safety requirements listed on collegeboard.org, the College Board requires all students and staff to wear a mask at check-in and during SAT testing. Students must also sit 3 feet apart during the test.
The requirements go on to say that “students who violate the requirements put in place by their test center or College Board should be dismissed from the test center; if this happens, their scores will be canceled, and they won’t receive a refund.”
In a phone interview Dec. 5, McDonald said masks can hinder students’ performance during the test, and they shouldn’t be required to wear them.
“We in Florida have choice. No masks are required anywhere. We don’t ask our athletes to wear masks during high-stakes events, or even during practice. We should not be masking our students when they are taking a high-stakes exam.”
“We in Florida have choice,” she said. “No masks are required anywhere. We don’t ask our athletes to wear masks during high-stakes events, or even during practice. We should not be masking our students when they are taking a high-stakes exam.”
Corinne Schaefer, the College Board’s assistant coordinator for the Saturday SAT tests at Matanzas, said McDonald remained at check-in up until the start of the test when the doors were closed.
“I stayed until the start of the session. Then I did leave,” McDonald confirmed.
“I would say 70 to 80% did not wear masks.”
CORINNE SCHAEFER, SAT testing staffer
Schaefer’s husband, Jeremy Schaefer, is the College Board’s coordinator for the SATs at Matanzas. They are both Flagler County teachers. Corinne Schaefer said most of the students did not wear masks during the exam after listening to McDonald’s remarks at check-in.
“I would say 70 to 80% did not wear masks,” she said.
She said the testing staff contacted the College Board as well as school and district administrators inquiring what to do.
“The College Board said we had to tell (the students) to put masks on, but not to disrupt the test at that point or to kick anybody out. Just to make sure the kids had a good environment to test in.”
McDonald said her concern is based on science that shows masks interfere with oxygen flow that would potentially hinder students from performing at their best during the test.
“Masks don’t work,” she said. “All they do is limit oxygen. We know it’s just a control feature.”
But Stephen Bickel, the medical director for the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County, said masks do not pose a health risk.
“There are a lot of issues about masks you can debate, but health problems are not one of them,” he said. “Studies show a minimal change with carbon dioxide, but not with oxygen levels. And it’s so minimal. Why would surgeons wear masks if they hinders their performance? The idea that they’re harmful is farcical.”
Dr. Bickel also said that while there is a debate on how effective masks are in preventing COVID-19, “I don’t know one doctor not driven ideologically who think masks don’t work at all.”