RICHMOND — Marilyn Stinson recalled when she went to Richmond High School in the late 1950s and how when there was a snowstorm, she and her classmates would listen for the fire whistle at 7 a.m. to hear if school was canceled.

She said if school was canceled, it was only if the superintendent, who lived three houses away, could not get to school and if the buses couldn’t run, the students would walk to school and whoever made it to class, made it.

Now, snow days across the Augusta area look a little different and classes can take place online following two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s prompting concerns from some parents.

Amanda Stanley McDaniel, a Richmond resident, calls snow days “a way of life” for those living in Maine and does not think snow days should be treated as remote learning days, as her three children’s district, Regional School Unit 2, decided to do last year. The latest such remote-learning day was Tuesday, as a wintry mix moved across the region and prompted other local schools to call off school.

McDaniel said as a parent working from home, it’s too difficult to both work and make sure her three elementary-aged children are on top of their tasks.

“What is happening is districts are asking parents to be teachers on top of their jobs,” she said. “It’s an unfair ask.”


McDaniel, who works in the communications field, suggested putting out a survey to families to ask if both parents work from home, have anyone who is ready to be a teacher at moments notice and if they feel their child is falling behind because of a snow day. She reached out to families on Facebook to see if they felt the same.

Gardiner city employees Tucker Fitzmaurice, left, and Johnathan Jamison look for a storm drain under the ice Tuesday on Maine Avenue in Gardiner. Rain and warm temperatures causing snow melt led to large puddles in some areas. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Already this academic year, many schools in central Maine have had at least three snow days, and some districts opted to make those days a remote learning day instead and switch between the two options. Most, if not all of the schools in the Augusta area, were closed Tuesday for the impending storm, which by noon was freezing rain and changed over to snow in the afternoon.

Snow frames colorful stairs as a person climbs them Tuesday in downtown Augusta. The quote is from Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption” and was painted in 2020. From bottom to top, it reads, “Remember hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Like RSU 2, the Winthrop Public Schools opted for a remote learning day. RSU 38, RSU 12 and Maine School Administrative District 11 canceled school and had a traditional snow day. Some schools, such as Augusta schools, Waterville Public Schools and Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, opted for a two-hour delay.

MSAD 11 Superintendent Pat Hopkins addressed the district last Thursday at the school board of directors meeting, ahead of Friday’s snow day, about the amount of snow days the area has seen so far. The district decided to build five snow days into its calendar year.

Hopkins said the main goal of having the five snow days built in is to ensure the senior class has 170 days of school before graduation — any more snow days, and the district would have to change the date of graduation. According to Maine Law, students have to be in school for at 175 days and the senior class can graduate up to five days prior to the end of the school year.

“To have three snow days prior to February vacation, potentially, is a lot, but who knows? We could see the weather turn around and have no snow days in March, but that’s probably unlikely,” Hopkins said.


Snowfall totals this year are about 5 inches less than past average snowfall totals, said Hunter Tubbs, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray.

However, Tubbs mentioned this year in particular, there have been a couple of notable storms with mixed participation where sleet and ice have impacted travel. Some towns in the Augusta and Waterville areas have experienced a shortage of salt to melt the ice on the roads due to a supply chain issue the supplier, Morton Salt, is experiencing down in South America.

Kari Barrett said on McDaniel’s Facebook post that as a bus driver, the roads, specifically Hallowell and Litchfield roads “are the worst” she has “ever seen in her life.”

In order to have a remote learning day count as a “regular” school day, students must be fed lunch, which in most cases, is sent home with a student the day before or delivered to their house by the school bus. As for school work, younger students are generally given a “snow day packet” and older students are expected to join in on Google Meets.

RSU 2 board Chairman Jon Hamann said Tuesday afternoon the district has taken a mixed approach, meaning that sometimes they will call a snow day and other times select a remote day. Usually, the district creates two calendars — one with no snow days added and one with five added, but he said COVID-19 and the waiver for the total number of school days has “messed” with the calendar in the past couple of years.

“With all of the technology and systems put in place to use remote learning, we found that it is possible to continue educating the majority of students when they are home during a weather event,” Hamann said. “This prevents us from lengthening the schedule into June days when we all want to enjoy the sunshine.”


Hamann said the district does recognize snow days provide a break for students and staff and that the district has also taken “traditional” snow days as well.

McDaniel said the packets can be difficult for students, mainly her youngest who needs help reading and following the instructions. She said her husband and herself have to work and do not have the option of taking the day off, or not paying attention to their work to help with remote learning.

“All they want to do is play in the snow, and it creates anxiety and anger and stress for families,” McDaniel said. “It’s enough to rearrange the day under supervision, then ask them to do assignments and tasks.”

The students, in most cases, do not have laptops that get sent home as they did during the remote learning period during the pandemic.

Jill Cote said her younger children would not be participating in RSU 2 remote learning days since she has to work and her oldest child has to attend school and is not able to supervise the younger children. Stacy Densmore a Richmond resident, said she is glad her students graduated, because she “couldn’t spend (her day) monitoring Zoom meetings and helping with packets.”

Ashley Mcfadden, a Dresden resident, said on McDaniel’s Facebook post she likes the remote learning days, because the students don’t have to make them up at the end of the school year, and her thought was corroborated by other commenters who said they are able to plan their summers this way.

“People are upset and having to get child care or miss work, but for the safety of our children, that is what we do,” she said. “I would much rather my kids have to do a packet of work and be safe than chance the busses full of kids on icy roads. I love the storm packets, myself. This way, they don’t miss a day of learning due to weather.”

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