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January 16, 2008

Snow days pile up in early days of winter; School year could extend into late June

Forget about mittens and boots, if severe winter weather continues to barrel though Southern New Hampshire, students will enter their classrooms this summer in shorts and flip-flops.

The nor'easter that slammed the state Monday led all local school districts to cancel school for the third time this winter, meaning students will now be going to class until at least the third week of June.

While school is tentatively scheduled to let out about June 18 in most towns - none of the local school districts is marking that date down in pen. If the snow keeps falling the way it has during the first part of winter, students will be sweating through their final exams on the official first day of summer.

Derry Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said she's starting to worry about what the future will bring - especially since the most snow tends to fall in March.

"We're worried about it because we hear the snow is supposed to keep coming," she said. "Since I've been here (six years), we've never had three days off this early. This is the most extreme we've seen it."

Superintendents usually make the decision to cancel school between 3 and 4 a.m. But most administrators said they will try their hardest to delay school by an hour or two, which gives crews enough time to clear the roads, before they cancel it.

Salem Superintendent Michael Delahanty said this year's unusual pattern isn't the number of snowstorms or inches that have fallen, it's the timing of the storms that has proven difficult.

"If I can have school, I will," he said. "It's very unusual that we have to cancel. The storm has to be timed as it was (Monday), with the worst coming down when the buses would've been out there picking up students."

Delahanty said it's not until the last day of school gets pushed to the fourth week of June that the date of high school graduation could change.

So far, local graduation dates haven't changed in local school districts because seniors are only required to attend school for 175 days, while other students must be in class for 180 days.

But even if the snow keeps falling, and classes keep getting canceled, there is some hope that students won't spend their first days of summer in school.

In extreme cases, school districts can request a waiver from the Department of Education, and a portion of the canceled snow days will not have to be made up.

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