School administrators looking to stem cancellations at the start of the school year due to extreme heat plan to start the school year after Labor Day. The catch is that too many snow days may push the school year later in June, which could mean paying holiday pay for some employees working the week of Juneteenth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — A change in the Kennebec-Intra Region Schools’ academic calendar to have students starting school after Labor Day has left some school officials wondering how the change will affect the end of the year. 

The idea came from Gardiner-area Superintendent Patricia Hopkins, who introduced the idea to the Maine School Administrative District 11 school board in January.  

By starting classes a week later, students and teachers can avoid the extremely warm weather at the end of August that has caused early dismissals. The change also means that mandatory staff workshop days would be held at the start of the year, rather than having the days scattered throughout the year.

But there’s a catch, Hopkins said. If the school district cancels school for snow more than the one snow day built into the calendar, the school year could stretch later into June, triggering the possibility the district would be obligated to $18,000 in holiday pay for education technicians working the week of Juneteenth, based on their union contract.

But with the use of remote days, Hopkins said she thinks the district will avoid the issue. The board unanimously approved the calendar at its March 7 school board meeting. 

“The next week is Juneteenth and there could be a cost there, but we talked about using more remote days and we prepared for remote days this year and sent home packets but it didn’t materialize — I feel like we have a system in place where we can revisit it and absolutely use (remote days) to limit the number of snow days we have in the future,” Hopkins said.   


Under state law, schools that send students to Capital Area Technical Center cannot have more than five days in their academic calendars dissimilar from other sending schools. Now, all the Kennebec-Intra Regional Schools — MSAD 11, Readfield-area Regional School Unit 38, the Augusta School Department, the Winthrop Public Schools and Hallowell-based RSU 2 — adopted the calendar unanimously within the past month at board meetings.

Howard Tuttle, superintendent of the Sheepscot Valley School District, said his district is sticking to starting school before Labor Day because it has no high school students to send to CATC.  

While MSAD 11 has had three snow days so far this year, other districts have racked up more. Winthrop Public Schools has had six, with three remote days and three snow days; and the Augusta public schools have had five snow days. 

Some school districts, like the Winthrop Public Schools, are still debating whether to have remote learning days or snow days.  

Remote days have drawn mixed responses from parents and students over the difficulty in following teacher instructions with little to no direction. And, depending on the severity of the storm, some students may lose power and the ability to work on their school projects.  

“While even a remote day under the best circumstances is a loss from academics, it’s way better than the other options (no school),” said Jim Hodgkin, superintendent of Winthrop Public Schools. 


The potential added costs of the shift are due to labor contracts. Like MSAD 11, RSU 2 pays education technicians holiday pay if the academic year extends into the week of Juneteenth, when education technicians are paid for the holiday even if there is no school that day.  

Other school departments in the region, like the Maranacook Area Schools of RSU 38, do not have that provision in their contracts with ed techs, but they do have Juneteenth listed as a holiday if snow days extend as far as four days. 

Hopkins said that other hourly staff members in the Gardiner-area district, like bus drivers and food nutritional workers, are compensated for Juneteenth if they work 20 hours that week under the current contract, which extends through 2025.

Hopkins said the school district can revert to the previous calendar if starting after Labor Day does not work.  

“A lot of thought has gone into this, a lot of time,” Hopkins said at MSAD 11’s recent board meeting. “It’s new and different and if it doesn’t work, we can step back and revisit it, but I hope that front-loading some workshop days will be so much more helpful for staff to begin the school year with less stress.”

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