SCARBOROUGH — The Board of Education is considering whether to provide remote learning for students on snow days. On Nov. 5 , board members decided that further discussion was appropriate before making a final decision.

Snow days are normally called by the superintendent, said April Sither, board chair, but the pandemic and hybrid learning schedule could impact what is defined as a snow day.

Concerned that power outages may affect remote learning, Superintendent Sanford Prince said that he recommends snow days continue as they have in the past, with students and staff having the day off.

“We’re relying on people to work out of their homes, on computers, and just this week we had an outage in Scarborough,” Prince said. “When I think of snow storms — when you get four or five inches, I worry one part of the town may not have electricity and the other part of the town may have electricity, and the equity issue of providing education for all students that day could be a challenge.”

He said that due to an emergency order from the state in March, the required number of school days was waived until Jan. 15. The Maine Department of Education will establish a required number of days for the remainder of the year, but snow days do not need to be “made up.”

Transportation issues could affect staff as well as students, as many staff members live outside of Scarborough, Prince said.

“Some travel 45 minutes to an hour to work,” he said. “I worry that if they’re at home and they can’t get to work or they can’t work remote(ly) in their own town because their own town may not have electricity, it could be kind of a mess.”

Scarborough does not typically have many snow days, about three or four each year, Prince said. However, the number of power outages in the Northeast has increased.

The Northeast has seen an increase in power outages from weather-related incidents. Courtesy photo Climate Central

Climate Central, an organization that surveys and conducts research on energy, reported on Sept. 30 that the Northeast has seen a 159 percent increase in weather-related outages.

Members of the board agreed that they wanted a vote at a future meeting and the chance to have public input.

Alicia Giftos, board member, said that the pandemic has added concerns about fully cancelling school due to inclement weather.

“I just worry that in the time of the pandemic I feel like instructional time is critical because we’re attempting to maximize every day that we can and we’re not necessarily operating as functionally as we have been,” she said.

Prince said that he hears the concern but also feels for the staff who may feel pressure on the morning of a snow day.

“At the same time people are really working hard, and I just put my own self in place at 6 a.m. or 5 a.m. and thinking, I’ve got to teach a class but I don’t have any electricity what am I going to do?” he said.

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