SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. - A high school in North Carolina lost the ACT answer sheets for its entire rising senior class, and the students will have to retake the test in the fall.
A total of 440 juniors at Pinecrest High School took the test on Feb. 20 and March 13, school administrators said.
The school said it became aware of the issue over the weekend of June 8 when it learned that ACT, the nonprofit of the same name that administers the test, had not received the students' answer sheets.
Administrators said it "extensively" searched the school, interviewed staff and reviewed video footage to try and figure out what happened to the answer sheets.
"We have not been able to locate them and at this point must conclude that they were discarded," the school said on its website.
After completing an investigation, it was determined that the loss of the answer sheets was "the result of a human error" and said that "appropriate personnel action" was taken.
ACT does not begin scoring tests until after the make-up test date, which was held March 13, and scores usually do not come back for at least eight weeks, the school said -- which would have been around early May.
During this time, the school said there were no indications from ACT that there were any issues. It wasn't until school staff reached out around May 20 to ask about the scores, and later confirmed in June with ACT that they did not have, nor had ever received, the school's answer sheets.
As a result, the Moore County School District will use local funds to pay for the retake of the test for the Pinecrest students.
The ACT, which has approximately seven test dates a year, consists of four subject area tests on English, math, reading and science, as well as an optional 40-minute writing test. It typically takes about 3.5 to 4 hours to complete with breaks.
For the students who hoped to use their spring ACT scores for early applications to college, the school administration said it was informed by ACT that scores from testing on September 14 will be returned by September 24.
"This will give students time to meet early application deadlines that typically don't begin until October 15," the school said.
Regarding academic scholarships, the administration also suggested that students speak to each college's financial aid office to determine the exact deadlines for scholarship applications awarded by the colleges.
"You can't be too upset about it. Human error is bound to happen sometimes," incoming senior class president John Cox told the local newspaper. "As long as the retest is handled in the way it is supposed to, and people get their results in time for college applications, then I don't think it is too big of a deal."
The high school, located about two hours east of Charlotte, said it was also working with ACT and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to review the security processes and protocols for administering tests.
"Pinecrest High School has developed a plan of action to ensure the fidelity of testing moving forward," Pinecrest High School Principal Stefanie Phillips wrote in a statement. "I deeply regret the situation and apologize to the entire rising senior class."
This story was reported from Los Angeles.