If you grew up in the northern half of the United States and a snowstorm came, you may remember excitedly listening to the radio or checking text messages to see if school was cancelled that day. If one school district’s experiment is successful, though, instead of having fun in the snow, students may be spending the day doing their schoolwork at home.
As of December 17, schools in the towns of Camden and Rockport, Maine, had already had four snow days this year, and there are more on the horizon as Maine’s winter weather can extend well into April. Now, the Camden-Rockport school district is trying out a possible solution to the snow day problem. Rather than extending school well into the month of June or holding classes on Saturdays, Superintendent Maria Libby has proposed that snow days become remote school days, a pilot project for the district.
Instead of simply canceling class due to extreme weather, remote school days would see students studying from home. Students in grades K-6 would take home pre-made “blizzard bags” that would be tailored to their grade and class and have worksheets and handouts for them to complete. Students in grades 7-12 would do work on their computers, with assignments due in lieu of formal attendance.
It wouldn’t be busy work. Teachers would post current assignments by 10 a.m. on snow days, and they would be reachable to help anyone struggling. According to Assistant Superintendent Debra McIntyre, older students in these schools are already used to computer-aided learning, so disruption should be minimal. For students without internet at home, a number of limited Wi-Fi hotspots will be available through the school.
Unfortunately, the Maine Department of Education didn’t think it was a good idea. A December 6 notice from the Department of Education said that remote days do not meet the criteria for actual school days.
“Anytime-Anywhere Learning school days are not currently on the list of approved options for calendar revisions due to snow day makeup in Maine,” the notice read. “Thus, electronic school days or other types of home-based instructional time will not be approved toward the 175 required instructional day requirement.”
However, all is not lost. DOE Director of Communications Rachel Paling said that because the school board approved the remote school days plan in September, the district will be able to use the options under specific conditions:
- If the district ends up having less than 175 full instructional days required by law, it must first add up to five school days to the calendar. After expending those make-up days, anytime-anywhere days can be used if the school district submits a waiver to the state.
- If the district has additional closures and the district has “exhausted all reasonable avenues for making up the list days,” it can submit another waiver.
That said, the Maine Department of Education is currently looking into remote school days as a viable option, and Paling said she expects more guidance on the use of anytime-anywhere days next year.
Superintendent Libby plans to schedule an appointment with the DOE after the school year resumes. She hopes to obtain “a special exception to allow us to try Remote School Days immediately. If not, we will wait until we have had five snow days and try it on the sixth day.”
“Remote snow days seems to be a way to maintain academic fluency,” school board member Carole Gartley told The Free Press. “Saturday school is sometimes a solution, or an hour a day is added to several days, as was the case this year. From an educational point of view, I don’t see those solutions as having much academic merit.”
If this Maine school district, and Maine schools in general, get the go-ahead to try remote school days when the weather is too severe for students to get to school safely, it could be a model for many other states whose schools are regularly closed due to severe weather. So, kids, you may need to say goodbye to your snow days.