Reminder and Updated Guidance for Scheduling / Rescheduling Instructional Days and Requesting Waivers

For those school administrative units (SAUs) that experience unplanned emergency or weather-related school closures, this guidance outlines the process of scheduling or rescheduling school days in order to meet the required number of instructional days, and for requesting Commissioner waivers. The Department encourages SAUs to build extra snow days into their calendar in advance.

As a reminder, the requirement in statute is 175 instructional days for students in grades K-11, and 170 days for high school seniors. An instructional day is defined as a school day during which both students and teachers are present, either in a school or in another setting. A day consists of a minimum of 3 hours, and an average 5 hours of instructional time (time devoted to the teaching-learning process, not including extra-curricular activities, lunchtime, or recess) over any two-week period.

Rescheduling instructional time

Acceptable methods to reschedule classes include the following:

    • Rescheduling or shortening scheduled vacation
    • Postponing the scheduled school closing date
    • Conducting classes on weekends
    • Extending the school day:
      • Under Chapter 125 Section 6.02, subsection C, SAUs may schedule a one-hour extension of the school day for up to 25 days in a school year; 5 one-hour extensions may be counted as an additional school day. It is important for school boards that vote on revised calendars to notify the Commissioner’s office, particularly for SAUs that choose to extend the school day, as this option will alter the attendance counts for the unit.
      • A predetermined early/late release/start day may be extended; the extended time may count as an additional school day provided it equals 5 hours, as outlined above.
      • An extended day should not be greater than one hour more than a regular-length school day.
    • Developing alternative ways to make up school days missed due to weather or emergency closures, as long as they are incorporated into a plan that is approved by the Commissioner.
      • Plans will be considered by the Commissioner upon receipt and review of plan details.
    • Piloting a remote school day. No more than one remote learning pilot day may count currently toward the 175 instructional days required by law. SAUs are encouraged to share remote day experiences with the Department and other SAUs.
        • Districts participating in this pilot complete[d] a short application, attesting to the assurances below:
            • access and equity for all students in implementation of the day;
            • provision of FAPE for students with disabilities;
            • provision of free breakfast and lunch for qualifying students;
            • school board approval, and staff, family and community support:
            • honoring of all other existing legal requirements, including regional school calendar requirements under 20-A M.R.S. 4801 2-A
    • Important information: for schools that choose to pilot a remote day, or to extend the school day in lieu of attending additional days, please be aware that SAUs that participate in federal reimbursement for USDA food funding may be affected, and there is currently no related assistance for SAUs. Although it appears there may be future developments regarding this issue, currently USDA food funding is calculated based on the number of lunches served in the previous year. Therefore, if the SAU has less lunches served due to extending school days rather than going extra days in the 2019-2020 school year, it will result in less federal reimbursement for the meal program in the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, it is important to understand that, currently, implementing a remote school day may conflict with commitments under the USDA food program.For further information about the Child Nutrition Program, contact Walter Beasley, Maine DOE Director of Child Nutrition at (207) 624-6875 or Walter.Beesley@maine.gov.

    Requesting waivers

    In Chapter 125: Basic Approval Standards: Public Schools and School Administrative Units Section 6.01, subsections C (1) and (2), regulations state that the commissioner may waive the minimum school year requirements upon submission of a written request from the school board to the commissioner, and that waivers will be granted after school officials have exhausted all reasonable avenues for making up lost school days, and only in extraordinary circumstances. Waiver requests will be accepted in the Spring, when the danger of cancellations has lessened. There is no need for the school board to send a waiver request to the Commissioner unless the SAU cannot make up enough days to equal the required 175.

    For further information about rescheduling school days or requesting waivers, please view the Department’s updated School Approval Waivers page.

    For further questions or to notify the Department of the intent to file for a waiver please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at (207) 624-6617.