The midweek snow and ice storm did more than close schools on Wednesday and prompt many to open two hours late yesterday. In Pennsylvania, it interrupted state-mandated writing tests for fifth, eighth and 11th graders at most public schools.

As a result, the state Department of Education announced yesterday that it has extended the testing period.

Because of the weather, schools will now be permitted to administer the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) writing tests through Feb. 28, said Sheila Ballen, a department spokeswoman.

The extra time will give districts breathing room: Schools will be closed on Monday for Presidents' Day, and most also will be closed for teachers' in-service sessions either today or Tuesday.

An announcement posted on the Department of Education Web site said schools that were not severely affected by the storm were encouraged to abide by the original schedule and wrap up testing by next Friday.

Many area districts expect to complete their writing tests by the end of next week.

"We always build in at least five days for makeups," said Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the Philadelphia School District.

Although city schools were closed Wednesday, they opened at their regular time yesterday.

"We're in pretty good shape," said Elliott Alexander, spokesman for the Pennsbury School District in Bucks County, where schools opened two hours late yesterday.

Alexander said that 11th graders had completed their writing tests, and that fifth and eighth graders had only one more day of testing.

Officials in the Neshaminy School District in Langhorne had decided that Valentine's Day might not be the best day to give writing exams to 11th graders because they might not be able to give the tests their full attention. So Neshaminy administered the 11th-grade tests on Monday and Tuesday.

But Sandra Costanzo, a district spokeswoman, said Neshaminy's fifth and eighth graders' testing was interrupted by Wednesday's snow day. She said they would finish their testing today.

Lower Merion was taking no chances. Although most other districts in Montgomery County opened two-hours late yesterday, Lower Merion opened on time.

"We wanted to get those PSSAs in," said Douglas Young, spokesman for Lower Merion schools. "We communicated with the township, and they were very aggressive in getting the streets cleared."

Lower Merion students took their writing tests yesterday.

Young said there was another reason Lower Merion decided against a delayed opening.

"Because we already had scheduled a half-day," he said, "a late opening would have given them a full day off."

Pennsylvania's more extensive standardized tests in math and reading will be given March 12 to 23.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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