AUGUSTA — With snowbanks still growing around the state, a bill allowing schools to add an hour to their regular school days to make up for days lost to snow cancellations got support from several educator groups Wednesday.

“This winter is an excellent argument for putting this proposal into place,” bill sponsor Rep. William Tuell, R-East Machias, said in a public hearing Wednesday before the Legislature’s Education Committee. “One of the communities I represent, Eastport, has seen upward of 150 inches of snow since January 24.”

Some schools in his district have already taken more than 10 snow days, he said. Several schools in the state were closed Wednesday because of the latest snowfall.

Under state law, schools have to make up entire days at a time, usually by adding Saturday school days, scheduling school during April vacation week or by tacking on days at the end of the year. Schools can also ask the state for a waiver to have fewer than the 175 minimum teaching days.

Tuell said his bill would simply give schools another option – one many parents, students and school employees would find less objectionable than school on Saturdays or during a vacation week or summer break. A district could make up one school day for every five days students attend for an extra hour.

Superintendent Scott Porter, who represents schools in the Machias area, said he supports the bill.


“The weather this winter has been extraordinarily challenging,” said Porter, noting that his area got another 12 inches overnight and had to cancel school on Wednesday. “I do believe adding an hour to a regular school day is more educationally sound than the options we have available to us currently.”

The state’s teachers union opposes the bill, citing concerns about childcare and whether younger students should be in school an extra hour. Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley also noted that some students, teachers and school employees have second jobs, making a schedule change difficult.

Some districts have a longer school year than the state minimum, allowing them more flexibility in dealing with snow days. That’s the case in Portland, the state’s largest district, which has had six snow days so far this year.

Because the district is scheduled for 180 student days, five more than the mandatory minimum, it would only have to make up one day so far this year, according to Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk.

“I expect enthusiasm will grow (for this bill) with every snowstorm,” said Bob Hasson, deputy executive director of the Maine School Management Association.

He noted administrators may have concerns about conflicts with after-hours clubs or sports, or with bus schedules. “But I believe these can be worked out at the local level for those who choose this option.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.