By the time snow stopped falling Wednesday, Sanford was blanketed with 2 feet of new powder. But one of the state’s highest snowfall totals didn’t stop students and teachers in that city from showing up for school.

“I tease the students sometimes because I get notes saying ‘Please have a snow day, Mr. T,’” said Sanford Superintendent David Theoharides. “I remind them that every snow day is one day less of summer vacation.”

A lot of other districts, however, did call off school for a second straight day Wednesday as Mainers dug out from the latest in a series of large late-winter nor’easters. And, with snow days exhausted and another storm headed toward Maine next week, school administrators around the state are looking for ways to expand the school calendar to make sure students are in class for the minimum number of days required by the state.

Some districts are considering longer school days or Saturday classes, as well as extra school days tacked on in June.

The Greely school district alerted families in Cumberland and North Yarmouth on Wednesday that students should show up for class Friday on what was scheduled to be a day off to allow for professional development for teachers.

“The only other possibilities would be to continue adding days at the end of June, add time to the school day, or even consider Saturdays, as other districts are doing to creatively gain back instructional time this winter,” School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter wrote in apologetic email to the community. “None of these are good alternatives for productive learning, so trying to at least recover one day in March seemed to be the best solution at this point.”


The nor’easter that swept across Maine Tuesday and into Wednesday produced near-blizzard conditions at its peak and buried roads, sidewalks and driveways under drifts of snow. The National Weather Service reported that 19.5 inches of snow had fallen in Gorham, 17.5 inches in Standish and 14 inches at the Portland International Jetport as of noon Wednesday. York County was the hardest hit in southern Maine, with reports of 26 inches in Acton, 24 inches in Sanford, 23.5 inches in Limerick, 18 inches in Biddeford, and 16 inches in Kennebunk.

School was canceled in Kennebunk, giving sisters Addison and Tamryn Carbone time to head for the hills. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

About 7,000 Central Maine Power customers were without power Wednesday morning in southern and central Maine, but only 274 CMP customers remained without power at 8:30 p.m.

It was different story in northern and eastern Maine Wednesday evening with Emera Maine reporting nearly 4,500 outages as of 8:30 p.m. Though still high, the total number of outages had been reduced significantly from 2 p.m. when Emera Maine reported 11,000 outages – many of them attributed to ice or snow.

Some Amtrak Downeaster trains were canceled Wednesday, and more than a dozen flights scheduled to depart from the Portland International Jetport were canceled or delayed.

The city of Portland announced a yellow zone parking ban from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday to allow crews to clear snow from narrow downtown streets. The yellow zone includes the downtown district bounded by Cumberland Avenue and Franklin, Commercial and State streets.

A full list of delays and closures is available at


Many school districts in southern and central Maine kept teachers and students home both Tuesday and Wednesday, although some, including York and Sanford, had plowed out enough to get buses on the roads and schools back open.

Maine schools typically build about five days into their academic calendars to accommodate snow days. But, this year, schools entered winter with one or two snow days already used up because of a strong October storm that knocked out power to much of the state for days. A relatively snowy winter and, in some districts, unexpected cancellations due to a surge of school security threats in recent weeks, have now pushed many school districts well beyond their alloted snow days and forced them to think creatively about how to make up lost days.

Westbrook schools have been closed for eight days because of weather this winter, the most in recent memory. The district lost one day in October because of a power outage, then seven more because of winter weather.

“I think everybody is in disbelief that this winter is so unusual,” Westbrook Superintendent Peter Lancia said.

As the last day of school gets delayed deeper into June, school officials take into consideration the affect changes in the schedule have on things like summer camps and summer school programs, Lancia said. Westbrook schools have never had to make alternate plans such as adding extra hours to school days or holding classes on Saturday, but Lancia is currently working with the school board to consider all the options.

The Maine Department of Education requires 175 instructional days per year for students in kindergarten through 11th grade and 170 days for high school seniors. After using built-in snow days and exhausting “all reasonable avenues” for making up lost school days, school boards can request waivers for storm days they cannot make up, according to Rachel Paling, spokeswoman for the Department of Education.


Paling said school officials should not expect waivers for lost time because of threats of violence against a school. In the past month, more than a dozen schools have received threats and some of them had to cancel classes for the day while law enforcement investigated. So far this year, the department has received one official waiver request and five or six requests to modify the school calendar, Paling said.

Sanford schools have used six snow days so far this year, giving the district more flexibility than many others. The district typically makes up snow days at the end of the year because there are few professional development or early release days that could be changed into makeup days, Theoharides said. If there are many more storms, Theoharides said, officials there will have to start thinking about adjusting the school calendar.

In South Portland, students and staff stayed home Wednesday for the second day in a row – and the seventh time this school year. At the next school board meeting, Superintendent Ken Kunin will ask the board to tack another day onto the end of the year to make up for the missed days.

So far, South Portland school officials haven’t considered alternative arrangements to make up the missed days, but may have to if more storms hit the city.

“Staying in the regular pattern is best if we can,” Kunin said. “If we have another big storm, we might not be able to.”

Cape Elizabeth interim Superintendent Howard Colter will meet with the school board Thursday to discuss how to make up some of the nine days the school district has been closed. Three of those days were because of power outages and another because of a safety threat, Colter said.


“In my experience, you usually have three to five days of snow causing cancellations,” he said. “But we don’t always hit that target.”

Colter will ask the school board to consider asking the Department of Education for a waiver for five of the missed days. The board also may consider holding school on a Saturday, changing school vacation or adding an hour to certain school days. Those decisions will ultimately be made by the school board.

“It’s really hard on everybody. I don’t think just adding those days to the end of the year is the best solution,” Colter said. “There are a lot of things out there to consider.”

Biddeford is one of the lucky districts because school has only been closed five days.

“We’re right on target this year,” Superintendent Jeremy Ray said. “We got very lucky in that fall storm where we didn’t miss any school in Biddeford.”

But, like superintendents across the state, Ray is already keeping a close eye on a storm that could hit the state in the middle of next week.


“Let’s hope this is it,” he said.

Staff Writer Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: @grahamgillian

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.

filed under: