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Snow days not a hindrance – yet


February 03, 2011
LAKES REGION — With more snow predicted for this week, local school district administrators said prior to the impending storm that so far, snow days aren't a huge concern, but they recognize that that can change quickly.

While superintendents and principals still have some leeway, having to declare snow days, opening the school grounds after two hour delays, or letting students out early has already created some concerns.

Like January, February is predicted to be a snowy month as well. As of Monday, most districts have only canceled one full day of school so far.

While pushing back graduation is always a concern, making sure students have adequate instructional time is of highest importance at local schools.

Inter-Lakes School District Superintendent Phillip McCormack said that much like other districts in the region, Inter-Lakes has called off one full day of school and had one delay and one early dismissal due to snowstorms, all of which came in January.

McCormack has seen more severe years, and feels that while Inter-Lakes is are prepared for worst, he does not expect the worst this winter.

"This is nothing like we had two years ago when some districts had to take 10 days off from school. Some areas even experienced ice outages in southern parts of the state," said McCormack.

As of right now, any missed days at Inter-Lakes will be made up at the end of the year. If school cancellations do rack up, districts have the option to waiver the 180 day rule in order to run gradation at a reasonable date.

"There are a number of different strategies on district approaches. Some districts adjust days to include more time and some have scheduled non student days in the past," said McCormack.

On the snowiest year, students at Inter-Lakes did not leave school until June 29, one day before the absolute cutoff of July 1.

Gilford High School Principal Ken Wiswell said snow days have not had a significant effect on Gilford schools so far either, reporting one full snow day, one delay, and one early release due to weather.

"We would need pretty close to 10 days to affect graduation and everything," said Wiswell. "We try to avoid taking off full days and try to be in school whenever we can."

Two years ago, GHS requested a waiver due to an unusual amount of snow days and delays. While seniors were able to graduate on time, underclassmen made up their remaining days at the end of the school year.

Wiswell said the waiver was especially necessary because Meadowbrook, the facility GHS seniors hold their commencement ceremony in, only has a small window for accommodating graduations.

As for this year's situation and multiple snow storms this January, like other schools, Gilford tries to take snow days and weather alerts as they come.

"We know we are in New Hampshire and New England, and we know it will snow," said Wiswell. "We prefer to be in class and not drag out the marking period. It's about getting in the groove, especially for the students."

Winnisquam School District Superintendent Tammy Davis said that no matter the year, the district is always concerned about winter weather, which can lead to missed instructional days for students.

Davis reported that the district has also had one snow day so far, plus one delay and one early dismissal – but that was before the snow that was predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday arrived.

"We need to take these days as they come. We assess our needs and we move forward. The weather is always a concern," said Davis. "Unfortunately, sometimes graduation is pushed back, but we have a certain amount of days we can make up."

In the worst case scenario, Winnisquam has about four to five days of cushioning before significantly impacting graduation. Davis said that in this scenario, graduating students and their parents would also be notified ahead of time of such changes due to snow days and delays.

"We can't anticipate the weather; we can just make the best decision based on the weather that day. The concern is making sure it is safe enough to come in," said Davis. "If roads are such that buses can safely go on routes, we would rather have a delay and provide students with the instruction that they deserve."

Davis also referred to a snowstorm that was predicted last year, when most areas canceled school for the day. To everyone's surprise, the storm never came.

"We all watched the weather and called off school for the tremendous storm that didn't come and blew out. We tried the best we could," said Davis. "It's a very challenging call for the superintendent."

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