Extra hours may make up for snow days

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PARIS — Students attended school last Friday and, depending on the upcoming weather, may have to stay late for an extra hour for at least a week after April school vacation following action the Board of Directors to mitigate the impact of nine snow days already used this year.

The last day of school for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 11 with 10 snow days built in is set for June 22. With five days June 15. The last day is a half day.

Currently, the students are scheduled to have their last day of school on Thursday, June 21.

The Board of Directors unanimously approved Superintendent Rick Colpitts recommendation to reschedule the March 23 teachers workshop to the day after the last day of student classes in June to allow classes from kindergarten through grades 12 to attend class.

The board also approved requesting the Commissioner of Education’s permission to extend the regular school day by one hour for two weeks beginning April 23 and running through May 4.  If approved, the regular school day, which ends at 1:52 for the middle and high school and 3:05 for the elementary school, would be extended by one hour.

On Wednesday, of the week, high school and middle students would be dismissed at 1:52 instead of 12:52 p.m. Wednesday is a half day each week. Elementary school students would be dismissed about 3:05 p.m.

The two-week extension of the school day and moving the workshop day will result in making up three snow days.

Colpitts told the board that if the school district has more than two more snow days, the students will be attending classes during the last week of June.

“We can’t go past July 1,” he said referring to the start of the new fiscal year.

The Department of Education mandates students in grades kindergarten-11 have a minimum of 175 of class days and high school seniors have a minimum of 170 days.

The two-week extension of the school day and moving the workshop day would result in making up three snow days, said Colpitts. Five days of one-hour-extensions meets a one-day class requirement. Schools may schedule a one hour extension of the school day for up to 25 days in a school year.

According to the DOE. acceptable efforts to reschedule classes include the following:

  • rescheduling or shortening scheduled vacation
  • postponing the scheduled school closing date
  • conducting classes on weekends.
  • In addition, districts sometimes choose to revert a scheduled teacher in-service day to a student instructional day

School board members said while they approved the plan, some were concerned with issues such as the effect on sports.

Another suggested holding classes during April vacation, which was quickly dismissed and another suggested extended days for three weeks prior to April vacation, but was reminded that the Maine Educational Assessment testing begins soon.

Many schools across the state have been facing similar issues with their school calendars.

The DOE grants  waivers  only after school officials have exhausted all reasonable avenues for making up lost school days, and only in extraordinary circumstances.

In a letter posted to parents on the school district website, Colpitts said the modifications were a “short term pilot opportunity in MSAD 17 that if successful may provide insight for future years.”

Surveys will be sent out to parents and students after the two-week pilot ends to determine the impacts of the program.

ldixon@sunmedagroup.net