School Board Chairman Nancy Hendricks said she wanted to discuss how to “put together an educationally solid, thoughtfully planned curriculum for our students when they are not in school.”
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg said six or seven school districts in the state presently use “blizzard bags.” Assistant Superintendent Andrew Corey explained blizzard bags are either done electronically or are an actual physical bag that has the day’s curriculum in it, should there be no school.
“We asked to get a list of the districts that are using them from the Department of Education. It would be our intent to see exactly what they are doing and how they are doing it, and come back with information to the board,” Greenberg said.
Pinkerton Academy and the Hampstead School District are among current users of blizzard bags.
Hendricks said at the Thursday, Feb. 20 School Board meeting, that she would be interested in hearing “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
She said if a district is using them with success, she wanted to hear about it, and if a district is using them and it’s not going so well, she wanted to hear about that too.
Greenberg said the district could have up to five bags.
“Most of the districts that I know that are doing it have two or three, but what I want people to keep in mind is that if we look at the long term, let’s say you had two or three blizzard bag days a year each year for children from first through 12th grade, that would mean over that period of time they would have had possibly 36 blizzard bag days. That’s like seven weeks worth of stuff,” Greenberg said.
Anissa Cote, the student representative to the school board, said there was more work in a blizzard bag than in a normal school day.
Resident Jennifer Ganem suggested going to 1,050 hours of instructional time. “Manchester had gone this way and it worked with their Manchester Education Association, and the school board decided to go this way and everybody appears to be quite happy with it,” Ganem said.
She said that amounts to three to four minutes per class to add the extra instructional time, and Manchester schools start after Labor Day. With 10 snow days built in, they are guaranteed to get out by June 12.
“The bottom line is that we have to trust the people we elect to make the decisions and take stands, and say this is what we’re going to do,” Ganem said.
Board member John Laferriere asked about the cost impact from a contractual perspective with the teachers.
Greenberg said he couldn’t discuss the cost perspective between Manchester and Londonderry.
“Our teachers are contracted for 187 days, so whether we go to June 30 or June 25 or June 7, it doesn’t affect our costs one bit,” Greenberg said.
He said Manchester is scheduled for 175 days and if they had five snow days then they would be down to 170 days of school, so by having 1,050 hours, if they had 10 snow days, that would put them at 990 hours – where Londonderry is.
Greenberg said what has to be looked at are opening and closing times because of the way the buses operate.
Resident Greg DePasse said he would like school to start later and finish earlier. He suggested a committee work on the issue and volunteered to be a member. He also asked about early dismissal as an option.
“I absolutely abhor early dismissal, as it causes problems with day care,” Greenberg said.
DePasse said there are systems that will dial parents when there is early dismissal or other announcements, and that the one he checked was $1.75 per student per year.
Board member John Robinson noted that the teachers’ contract is up this year and it is important to decide what would be negotiated.