The Maine Department of Education has cooled plans for Camden and Rockport schools to launch a program that could eventually replace traditional snow days with remote learning. The school district had planned to test a two-day version of “Remote School Days” after the winter break that would allow students to complete work from home on days when foul weather forces school closures.

A December 6 notice from the state Department of Education (DOE) announced that remote days, which the DOE refers to as “Anytime-Anywhere” days, are not an acceptable replacement for makeup days inside a school building.

“Anytime-Anywhere Learning school days are not currently on the list of approved options for calendar revision due to snow day make-up in Maine,” the DOE notice stated. “Thus, electronic school days or other types of home-based instructional time will not be approved toward the 175 required instructional day requirement.”

DOE Director of Communications Rachel Paling said that because the MSAD 28 board approved the remote snow days plan in September, the district will still be able to use the option under three specific conditions. If the district falls under the 175 instructional days required by law, it must first add up to five school days to the calendar. After expending the makeup days, Anytime-Anywhere days can be used with submission of a waiver to the state. If there are additional closures and the district has “exhausted all reasonable avenues for making up the lost days,” they can submit an additional waiver. Paling added that DOE is currently looking into remote days as a viable option for schools, and she anticipates further guidance to be forthcoming next year.

MSAD 28 board member Matt Dailey said he would support Superintendent Maria Libby in continued efforts to receive state approval. “Snow days are unpredictable and disruptive,” Dailey said. “I would like to see if the remote school day concept is a viable alternative to the status quo.”

Libby sent a letter to parents explaining that the district began planning its pilot program in the spring, before DOE guidance was available. Following the ruling last week, “The guidance almost makes it impossible to use a Remote School Day,” she stated. Libby plans to schedule an appointment with the DOE after January 2 in an attempt to obtain “a special exception to allow us to try Remote School Days immediately. If not, we will wait until we have had 5 snow days and try it on the 6th day.”

“Remote snow days seems to be a way to maintain academic fluency,” said school board member Carole Gartley, explaining the traditional remedy would be to add class time in June. “Saturday school is sometimes a solution, or an hour a day is added to several days, as was the case this year. From an educational point of view, I don’t see those solutions as having much academic merit.”