Guidance Regarding Storm-Kit Days (a.k.a. Blizzard Bags) for Students

The Department has had a number of inquiries about the use of Anytime-Anywhere school days and learning (a.k.a. e-learning, storm kits, blizzard bags, snow packs). This communication is to clarify the current status of requirements regarding makeup days for cancellations due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances as it relates to Anytime-Anywhere or home-based instructional days.  Please know that the Department is currently in conversations and exploring data and best practices around this topic, and anticipates further information and guidance to be forthcoming in the winter and spring of 2019.

Anytime-Anywhere Learning school days are not currently on the list of approved options for calendar revision due to snow day make-up in Maine pursuant to 20-A M.R.S. §4801 and Maine Department of Education Rule Chapter 125(6.02)(C). Thus, electronic school days or other types of home-based instructional time will not be approved toward the 175 required instructional day requirement, except as provided below.

The Department has responded to previous inquiries indicating that school administrative units could consider building such a plan into a future school year, as long as certain guidelines were followed. This email outlines those guidelines, and stipulates the extenuating circumstances under which an Anytime-Anywhere day may be helpful to districts.

A local school board must anticipate the probability of snow cancellations and build extra instructional days into its calendar. The Department recommends that units build at least 5 days into the school calendar for this contingency, as they may not use home-based, or Anytime-Anywhere learning, as an un-planned response to excessive weather-related cancellations, or as a means to revise an established calendar.  Incorporating the idea during yearly district calendar planning allows the methodology to be researched and planned well in advance and perhaps piloted to see how well it works in the curricula continuum, as opposed to implementing something new without building it into the overall district plan.

After the 5 day snow day contingency is established in the calendar, if the local school board contemplates an Anytime-Anywhere learning option as part of the calendar planning process prior to the start of the school year, and none of the days supplant the required 175 days or the 5 extra planned makeup days, then the option may be implemented. If implemented, the board must include these storm pack days as part of any waiver request to the Commissioner in the spring.  Thus, they would not be considered instructional days, but if implemented following the guidelines herewith in paragraph 6, a waiver for those days may be granted by the Commissioner.

School board calendar planning regarding Anytime-Anywhere days should take into account the following guidelines:

  1. School board must vote on the specific use of Anytime-Anywhere days within the regional calendar planning process prior to the current school year, and after 5 days of regular makeup days have been established.
  2. Parents must be notified of the provisions of Anytime-Anywhere school days.
  3. Anytime-Anywhere days must be included as part of a waiver in relation to school cancellation days; and the waiver request must include the original school board statement of plan regarding makeup contingency days and Anytime Anywhere days.
  4. Anytime-Anywhere learning must be age appropriate and timely within the curriculum being delivered, and must include an accountability expectation.
  5. Anytime-Anywhere learning must include the ability to speak to one or more educators during the hours when school would normally be in session.
  6. If Anytime-Anywhere learning includes an electronic component, the SAU must provide an alternative method by which the work may be accomplished, to ensure universal access to the material.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or with questions.