Because of the unprecedented amount of snow days in Massachusetts, some students and teachers will be in the classroom until the end of June; however, some districts in neighboring New Hampshire are countering snow days with an online system that allows students to work at home, so they don't have to make it up at the end of the year.
It's called the blizzard bag program, and the Timberlane Regional School District is one of only a handful of districts using it in the entire state.
Fifth Grader Chase Carstensen sat at his laptop inside Atkinson Academy Thursday and showed necn how the blizzard bag program works.
"We needed to read this paragraph and write some answers," Carstensen said. "Then my teacher wrote back."
On what would typically be a snow day, students can find their school work online or in a blizzard bag envelope.
"We try to get it to match the rigor and expectations of our classroom," Atkinson Academy fourth grade teacher Nicole Bailey said.
Eighty percent of students must participate in order for the New Hampshire Department of Education to count it as a regular school day. The state has verified both of Timberlane's blizzard bag days.
"This is not crosswords and word searches sent home that count as a day of school, it is not," said Superintendent Earl Metzler. "It is rigorous meaningful work."
The majority of districts in the Granite State have not adopted the program. Critics say there's no way it's equivalent to classroom instruction, and necn found some evidence to back up that argument. When we asked Carstensen if the work was difficult, he said, "not really."
And when necn asked fifth grader Matt Spero how long the work took him to finish, he said, "Forty-five minutes to an hour."
Teachers and administrators admit it's not the same as being in the classroom, but say it's better than struggling with the heat and distractions in the classroom at the end of June.
"I'm not suggesting it's better, I am saying it's a nice alternative than adding days on end of year," Dr. Metzler said.
"Does it take them as long as typical school day? No, but it's the consistency," Bailey said.
Parents say the blizzard bags are much more difficult for the older kids.
"It's harder than you think," said mom of Kerry Spero.
She spent five hours on Monday making sure all of her kids completed their work.
"Fourteen pages for eighth grade math, that's a lot," Spero said.
Superintendent Metlzer worked in the Quincy Massachusetts School District for 25 years. This year, the district has had an unprecedented 11 snow days and Metzler says he's heard from some of his former colleagues.
"What's this blizzard bag thing all about and how could we bring it to Massachusetts," Metzler said.
The media relations coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Jackie Reis wrote an email to necn Thursday explaining the department's willingness to consider the blizzard bag program. She writes, "No district in Massachusetts has asked to use a blizzard bag program in lieu of school days, but we are open to discussing the idea with any districts who would like to propose such a program."
Timberlane is planning for another possible blizzard bag day on Monday.