- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Stressed-out students who thought their completed ACT exams had gone missing can relax: The nearly 200 college-entrance exams they completed in December have been found at an Iowa grocery store.

The ACT organization had sent an email Monday night to 195 students, telling them that their answer sheets never arrived at testing headquarters after they took the exam at Johnston High School on Dec. 13. The school district quickly investigated and discovered the completed tests were in a box at a nearby Dahl’s grocery store.

“It’s unfortunate, and we’re sorry that everyone had to go through this roller coaster of events,” ACT spokeswoman Katie Walker said, adding that the exams were still valid and scoring would be expedited.

The school’s principal picked up the test packets Wednesday morning, district spokeswoman Laura Sprague said. She said the tests will be shipped to ACT headquarters overnight.

Sprague said the mix-up started when an ACT-hired testing coordinator dropped off the packets for mailing at the grocery store. The exams were enclosed in a FedEx package, which was accidentally placed in a U.S. mail bin and sent to Johnston’s post office. Postal workers sent the box back to the grocery store because they couldn’t ship a FedEx package.

Sprague said most of the responsibility in handling completed tests falls to ACT, but that school officials looked for ways to locate the package, and postal workers helped trace it back to the store.

“We know that it was stressful for students and families, and that’s certainly never what we wanted,” Sprague said.

The discovery was welcomed news for Emily Harney, a senior at Dallas Center-Grimes Community High School in Grimes. She said she feels better about the prospect of her college acceptance now that they exams have been found.

“As angry as I was, it was just kind of a sigh of relief,” she said Wednesday.

Walker said the ACT organizations offer still stands for students who want to take the test again for free on either Feb. 7 or Feb. 14. She also said the December registration fees - $38 for exams without a writing portion and $54.50 with the writing test - will still be refunded for the confusion.

Students were initially told that score reports would be available no later than Feb. 6. Walker said it wasn’t immediately clear when students’ scores would now be available.

Molly Vincent, whose 17-year-old daughter’s answer sheet was among those misplaced, said the mix-up possibly exposes the “larger issue” of protocol within ACT.

“If this can happen, what else is broken?” she said.

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