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SCHOOL CLOSINGS

In N.H., a winter storm is no guarantee of a snow day for students

At least one school district has announced it will have a remote learning day on Tuesday as a winter storm heads for New England

Pamela Walsh turns away from work to help her son Luke with his schoolwork at their home in Concord, N.H., on Oct. 8, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz/NYT

CONCORD, N.H. — At least one New Hampshire school district has announced there will be remote learning on Tuesday, as the state braces for a winter storm that could drop around six inches of snow.

It’s up to each school district to decide whether they will have a snow day, use remote learning, or have a normal school day in light of various weather and road conditions throughout the state. There are 455 school districts in New Hampshire.

Epping Superintendent William Furbush decided late Monday morning that the school district would have a remote learning day on Tuesday, pointing to the predicted snowfall, timing of the storm, and potentially hazardous road conditions.

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“Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and families,” he said in a message informing parents of the decision. “By transitioning to remote learning, we aim to maintain educational continuity while prioritizing everyone’s safety.”

The district has only had one snow day so far this year, according to the superintendent’s office. The Epping school district attempts to notify parents and students about remote learning the afternoon before it is called, according to a Jan. 22, 2024 post. Students can then be sent home with chromebooks and materials to complete assignments.

Hopkinton is another school district considering a potential closure.

“As you know we have been tracking this storm for the past several days in preparation for an instructional snow day if needed,” wrote Patrice Brown, the principal of Harold Martin School, in an update to parents on Monday. “At this time, it is unclear what the weather is going to do.”

Brown said the school would send students home with materials in case the district decided to implement remote learning.

On Sunday, the district sent a letter to students and families explaining that “instructional snow days” were used successfully the year prior and would therefore be used again in 2024.

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The district has had two traditional snow days so far this year, which will not need to be made up, according to the letter signed by Rebecca Gagnon, director of curriculum, assessment & professional development. Gagnon said the district would use remote instruction on the next two days when there is inclement weather. Attendance counts for students who complete assignments.

According to Gagnon, the goal is for remote instruction to keep students and staff connected, decrease the gap between instruction periods, and minimize how much time students need to be in the classroom during hot summer months. She noted that remote instruction can also provide more certainty to families about when the final day of school will be in the spring.

She said if the district learns of wide-spread power outages, it will revert to a traditional snow day.

Many states adopted remote learning policies after schools had to transition to using them during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting concerns that the traditional snow day would become a thing of the past. But nationally, the data shows that hasn’t happened yet, according to Nathan M. Sorber, associate professor of higher education at West Virginia University.

In New Hampshire, remote learning predates the pandemic, according to NHPR, which reported that Kearsarge Regional School District came up with the idea for a “blizzard bag” program in 2009, after then-superintendent Jerry Frew grew frustrated by nine snow days during his first year.

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The state then adopted the program, but few schools had signed up by 2013, NHPR reported.

The landscape is different in the wake of COVID. All school districts are now allowed to use remote learning when there is inclement weather, according to a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Education. The department does not track statewide data about how often districts utilize that option.

Parents should contact their school districts or check local media for information about school closings.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.