Local students may have to swap their snow boots for house slippers this winter as Boothbay Region High School (BRHS) begins a remote snow day pilot program. The school will implement online learning during some snow days instead of making them up at the end of the year. Principal Tricia Campbell made the announcement to the Community School District School Board Oct. 14.
“The goal is to implement a remote instruction process that meets or exceeds the standard for structured learning time so that these days can be counted towards the required days of instruction for the calendar year,” Campbell said in an email to the Register.
The written program overview from BRHS says remote days will be called by the Superintendent, who will send out notification a day prior whenever possible. According to the document, the school will still have traditional snow days during extreme weather or power outages. In addition, it says the hard end of the school year will be the day before the Juneteenth holiday at the latest.
The document claims the new program has benefits around set scheduling so students can commit to starting summer jobs or families can plan vacations. It also says working remotely helps students develop skills in independence and time management.
Remote school days are not a brand new idea. Camden-Rockport schools were some of the first in Maine to have remote learning programs, according to Boothbay Region Elementary School Principal Shawna Kerr, who was formerly employed with the district. Camden Rockport Middle School and Camden Hills Regional High School both have remote snow day programs, which have been running since the 2018-2019 school year, according to the Five Towns Community School District Superintendent’s Office.
While the CSD pilot program is only being implemented at BRHS, Kerr said the elementary and middle schools will be looking into it. According to Kerr and the Five Towns superintendent’s office, Camden Rockport Elementary School had, and later abandoned, a remote snow day program due to the limited independence of younger students and strain the program put on working families.
Other schools in Maine have since implemented remote learning, building on protocols and practices developed during the pandemic. In her research for the program, Campbell said she spoke with superintendents, directors and principals including from Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 93 and Bath Regional Career and Technical Center. Campbell said, according to the school leaders she talked to, their programs have mostly been successful.
“The key is flexibility, and the most important thing is to follow up with students on their schoolwork and understanding of concepts reviewed during remote instruction, because nothing replaces the connections made during in-person instruction," she said.
According to Campbell, the remote school days will replicate an in-person day as closely as possible, including schedules. Educational materials will be available through Google teaching tools via remote classrooms and meetings to lecture, do group work, or ask questions.
As for hands-on classes, including art, science and shop, Campbell said hands-on teachers have been some of the most talented remote instructors, using online demonstrations, video examples, models, real life investigations, research and class discussions.
“There are certainly times when an alternative assignment that practices skills may be introduced, but these master teachers have been highly successful in determining what works for their students depending on where they are in their current curriculum and what is possible given the circumstances,” she said.
In addition, she said the Bath Technical Program, where BRHS students learn vocationally oriented skills, has also implemented a remote school day program.
Students and their families have access to the resources needed for the program, according to Campbell. BRHS provides students with a ChromeBook they use in their classrooms and at home, which can be used for remote days. According to the program document, the school’s technology team will be available for support if issues arise. Campbell said sometimes a student does report connectivity issues, but they can use their cellphone hotspot until the internet is restored at home.
“Right now, there have been no additional needs identified,” she said.