Blizzard bags, extended days explored by school districts to make up missed snow daysBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
February 11. 2018 11:56PM
School districts throughout New Hampshire are trying to find ways to make up missed snow days in an attempt to get kids out of the classroom before late June.
In Nashua, the Board of Education recently proposed extending the school day to make up for three of its missed snow days. In Derry, the school district recently approved the use of blizzard bags — assignments that students complete at home.
In Merrimack, the school board has also started discussions about using blizzard bags next year.
The assignments have been available from the New Hampshire Department of Education since 2010.
In the past two years, 11 public school districts, two charter schools and three non-public schools have participated in the program, according to Heather Gage, director of the New Hampshire Department of Education’s division of educational improvement.
If 80 percent of the district’s students complete the assigned work at home, state officials equate the day as a full school day; the maximum is five.
John Fabrizio, director of special services in Merrimack, said blizzard bags can be a challenge for working parents who may not be home to assist their children with online work or assignments.
“That is not reality for some of our parents during the day,” said Fabrizio.
Concerns about equity and whether all students will have the technology necessary to complete the online work were also raised.
Merrimack School Board Chairman Shannon Barnes said her biggest concern is for students that could fall behind on their classwork because they would not have the collaboration necessary to complete some of the assignments.
“I worry very much for those students,” said Barnes.
Gage stressed that there are other options for students without internet connection at home, explaining paperwork is given to those students in advance.
The most recent approval for blizzard bags was for the Derry Cooperative School District, said Gage.
“The issue of blizzard bags comes up a lot because of inclement weather, and this year, of course, is no different. It started early this year,” said Gage.
Some school districts with continued success with the program include Merrimack Valley School District and Kearsarge Regional School District, she said.
Adding 14 minutes per day
In Nashua, the Board of Education and superintendent strongly recommended adding 14 minutes to the school day — seven at the beginning and seven at the end — in an effort to make up three of the district’s missed snow days.
However, one unit of the Nashua Teachers’ Union rejected the proposal earlier this month. School officials still have some time to consider an alternative option to be presented to the union.
Initially, the last day of school was set for June 13 in Nashua; however with the six snow days the new, tentative last day of school will be June 21.
“There is no easy way to get around this. It is likely, I hope I am terribly wrong, that there is going to be another snow day,” Superintendent Jahmal Mosley said.
He said that many classrooms do not have air-conditioning, and it is challenging to conduct class during the end of June when the weather is warm.
Last year, the Nashua School District did opt to add 14 minutes onto the end of the day to help make up some missed snow days.