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When is weather enough to reschedule Regents exams? The answer, schools finally learn, is a downstate snow storm

When a bitterly cold snap last January shut down schools in Western New York, high school students scheduled to take Regents exams were out of luck. They had to wait until the spring to take the tests.

But when New York City shut down for snow on Tuesday, the response from the state Education Department was different.

Schools that closed got a special "one-time" allowance that let them make up the Regents exams. Ken Wagner, senior deputy commissioner for education policy, pointed to what was expected to be a "historic snow storm" that could have affected half of New York's students at a time when the state was administering one of its final Integrated Algebra Regents Exams. The exam, which is a requirement for graduation, is being phased out in favor of an Algebra exam aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards.

Wagner, in a memo to school administrators, called the decision to allow schools to make up the cancelled Regents exams a "one-time change" for a "historic, extraordinary and widespread confluence of events."

Last year, a state Education Department spokesman said the state does not allow schools to offer makeup Regents exams because the tests are administered on the same day in all schools for security purposes. Creating a bank of makeup exams, he said then, would be too costly.

In the memo to schools this week, Wagner said schools that reschedule the exams because of weather this week would have to provide a "comprehensive plan to ensure the security of exams and scoring materials during this time period."

All January exams must still be administered by the end of the week, he said.

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