By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Snow days may never be the same for Pinkerton Academy students.
Instead of missing school and watching the flakes fall, students will now be able to do classroom assignments and keep up with their work.
The high school is piloting a blizzard bag program, where students staying home due to snow days are given school work to do that will count as a day’s worth of assignments.
Most of the work is done online; if students do not have access to a computer, hard copies of the work are distributed.
It’s a program several schools around the state are now using or trying out this year.
Beverly Lannan, Dean of Faculty, said it’s a positive move to help keep Pinkerton’s curriculum moving when storms hit.
“They will be happy at the end of the year when they are not sitting in these hot classrooms,” she said.
The idea first came up in 2009 and the state’s Department of Education has opened up the option to all school districts.
It has caught on in some districts, but not in all. For Pinkerton, administrators say it’s worth a try.
Lannan said Pinkerton has considered the blizzard bag approach for three years. Several teachers came forward and said it was something the school might look into.
That included getting input through surveys from parents and students.
The plan started taking shape with much administrative support, Lannan said.
Lessons done at home during a snow day are meant to be rigorous and detailed, she added.
“We don’t want it to be just fluff,” Lannan said.
When a snow day is called, students will be able to access the EDLINE online program where teachers will have their specific assignments.
Lannan said teachers will be given ample notice to get their lessons online when there is danger of a big storm coming.
Once they are back in the classroom, the lessons will be discussed and graded to count as a regular assignment.
To be successful, the blizzard bag program has to have 80 percent student participation.
Lannan said technology has opened up so many options for teaching. In this case, being out due to a snowstorm will keep students on track with their assignments.
“It’s a pilot program,” she said. “At the end of the year, we will review the program and look at the assignments and what students did.”
Then the decision will be made whether to continue the program.
It’s not just the students doing the snow-day work. Teachers will also be required to put in their time while out of the classroom to make the program work.
Londonderry has used blizzard bags for the last two years. But they have not had to use them during a snow day.
“We used it on a day where our faculty was in school for teacher’s conferences,” said Londonderry Assistant Superintendent Andrew Corey. “It went very well then. We really feel it almost needs to be more of a pre-planned thing when it comes to making up the day.”