By Mary Loftis —
Those of you who have children in the ConVal School District have recently received information about “Blizzard Bags.” When I first heard the term at an Education Committee meeting, I envisioned something a Saint Bernard dog might deliver along with the brandy to someone lost in a snowdrift. Well, that’s wrong. In fact, as Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Saunders explained, Blizzard Bags for at-home work provide a way kids can continue learning even if school is cancelled due to weather / emergency conditions. The State of New Hampshire Department of Education affords the opportunity to “count” up to five days, which would otherwise have to be made up in June.
If they have Internet access, students of all grade levels can access and complete their work online. Teachers will be available through email for questions and assistance during specific hours of the day. Otherwise, students will have the option to complete an actual “bag” of work that they take home from school. This will not be “busy work,” but engaging lessons directly related to the current curriculum. The Department of Education requires a threshold of 80% district participation in order for the day to “count.”
Our district extends far and wide and encompasses many challenging back roads which must be factored in when a school / no school decision is being made. Roads may be passable in Peterborough but not in the hinterlands of Temple or Dublin – and yet a district-wide decision must be made. The Blizzard Bag opportunity for at-home work will reduce disruptions to students’ educational progress and reduce the number of those tiresome June make-up days.
Here are some Blizzard Bag FAQs:
Q: How do I know if it is a Blizzard Bag Day or just a No School Day?
A: The decision will be made at the SAU level and families will be notified via the AlertNow system.
Q: Is every snow day going to be a Blizzard Bag Day?
A: No. This NH Department of Education decision has been granted for a maximum of five days.
Q: Is completion of the assignment mandatory?
A: Yes. The assignment must be completed either online or via the Blizzard Bag component. Extra completion time may be granted by teachers.
Q: When is the assignment due?
A: Assignments will be due the following school day.
Q: What if there is no electricity?
A: If there is an obvious no power situation, it will not be a Blizzard Bag Day. If power is lost during the day and it has already been deemed a Blizzard Bag Day, students should use the hard copies of assignments sent home with them.
Q: Do my kids have to do this rather than playing outside on snow days?
A: Yes. The assignments are mandatory, and if students do not complete them, they will be marked absent for the day. The NH Department of Education requires 80% participation for the day to count as a school day.
Q: Are teachers going to be available to students when they are working?
A: Yes. All teachers are expected to be available online during regular school hours.
Mary Loftis is Dublin’s representative to the ConVal school board of SAU 1.