SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

February 19, 2014

Snow days aren't so simple for some NH schools

CONCORD, N.H. — When winter storms hit, some New Hampshire superintendents have two decisions to make: whether to close schools, and whether to declare a “Blizzard Bag Day.”

What’s a “Blizzard Bag Day?” Think of it like a snow day, with a catch. Schools are closed, but students must complete assignments at home, either online or on paper using supplies sometimes sent home in a designated “blizzard bag.” If 80 percent of students finish their work, the day counts as a full day and doesn’t have to be made up at the end of the school year.

The Kearsarge Regional School District in central New Hampshire was the first in the state to implement a “blizzard bag” policy in 2009. Before then, it wasn’t unusual to have to extend the school year by eight or nine days in the summer, Superintendent Jerry Frew said.

“We had periods of time when we would have interrupted weeks of school on end, and just out of frustration, we said, ‘There has to be a better way to do this, to preserve continuity so the kids stay in the habit (of learning),’” he said. “You can’t stop and start and stop and start. There has to be a way to preserve the momentum of learning.”

He called the policy a great partnership between families and teachers, who often say the “blizzard bag” days are busier than a regular school day because they have to prepare all the lessons ahead of time and are communicating by phone and online with students and parents all day. The program has been fine-tuned over the years. The first year, the workloads proved a bit too much, Frew said.

“We were a bit overzealous in our expectations,” he said.

School officials also took to heart some “whining” from students, he said.

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