EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 15, 2013

Snow days have piled up this year

Most districts will end June 20

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — With one snowstorm after another, it’s been a winter some people would rather forget.

Except for schoolchildren.

Falling snow and slippery roads have meant five snow days for most Southern New Hampshire schools this winter — and it’s only mid-March. Derry has missed six days.

While students might enjoy an unexpected day off during the winter, that joy will be distilled in June. Many schools already have pushed back the last day of school an extra week in June.

Local school officials are optimistic the last day won’t be pushed back much further. So far, graduation dates have not been affected.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Salem school Superintendent Michael Delahanty said yesterday.

In many districts, the final day has been moved from June 13 to June 20 as cancellations piled up with the snow.

Students are required to attend school 180 days per year, and local superintendents said there are three to five cancellations in a typical year.

Salem has canceled four days of school so far this year, Delahanty said. He will ask the School Board on Tuesday for approval to make up one of the missed days by having students attend school on a staff development day.

That would allow for smoother scheduling of the high school graduation date, he said. The last day of school is now set for June 20.

“That will give us some flexibility,” Delahanty said.

Unpredictable New England weather could mean more snowstorms cancelling school as late as April.

“We just move the last day back as we go along,” said Brian Blake, superintendent of the Sanborn Regional School District.

Sanborn has canceled four days this winter, with the last day also set for June 20.

Other districts follow the same philosophy as Sanborn and Salem.

“If there is another storm, we just move it back again,” said Chip Underhill, spokesman for Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

Pinkerton has canceled five days because of weather, he said, pushing the last day to June 20. In School Administrative Unit 28, Windham canceled five days and Pelham canceled four. Their last days are June 19 and 20, respectively.

“That’s pretty typical for the year,” Underhill said of Pinkerton’s five cancellations.

Except winter isn’t over.

“New England is New England,” said Londonderry school Superintendent Nathan Greenberg. “We’re not even out of March yet.”

Greenberg recalled the Mother’s Day rainstorm in 2006, when flooding closed schools for at least a day in May.

He said one key to avoiding scheduling woes is starting school before Labor Day, especially when stormy weather the last two years has led to cancellations in October.

First, there was the infamous Halloween storm in 2011 that dumped a foot of snow on the area. Then, there was the havoc wreaked by Sandy that knocked out power and damaged homes.

Storms such as those cause a little uneasiness for school officials wondering how many cancellations they will have by the end of the year.

“I’ve been sweating out October,” Greenberg joked.

As a matter of fact, most local districts only had one or two snow days last year after canceling up to three days of school in October 2011.

That’s in stark contrast to 2008-2009, when a December ice storm forced districts to close school for up to nine to 10 days.

Districts across New Hampshire requested waivers from the state Department of Education because it would be difficult for them to meet the 180-day requirement.

Londonderry canceled nine days of school because of the storm, but made up some of that time later by canceling teacher workshop days and early release days.

The final day was the same as this year — June 20, unless another storm changes that.

“The ice storm killed us that year,” Greenberg said.