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Mohawk Trail, Hawlemont plan blizzard bag study

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School buses line up at Mohawk Trail Regional High School last June. Recorder File Photo/Matt Burkhartt

  • An example of a blizzard bag for kindergarten. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli



Recorder Staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

BUCKLAND — The Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts now have enough volunteers for a study committee to research a Blizzard Bag Program, which would enable students in all grades to keep up their academic programs during “snow days” without having to make up school days lost during winter storms.

An organizational meeting is scheduled at Mohawk on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m. in Mohawk. According to School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti, about a dozen teachers and school families are willing to participate in the study.

As a district that covers nine hill towns and 253 square miles, “snow days” can have a big impact on whether Mohawk’s school buses can traverse narrow, steep and sometimes unpaved roads.

Buoniconti has said the Gateway Regional School District estimates saving about $55,000 per year (about $11,000 per day) by not having to expand the school year to compensate for days lost because of weather. That estimation was based on having the school year extended by five days. The savings included: $25,182 for regular school transportation and $9,665 for special education transportation; $6,840 for cafeteria staffing on those days; and $7,230 on school utilities.

So far this school year, Hawlemont and all the Mohawk district schools have been closed for four academic days due to snow storms and severe windchill factors.

While the state requires students to attend school for 180 days and 990 hours (high school) or 900 hours (elementary schools), “the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has allowed ‘Blizzard Bag’ exceptions to the 180-day rule based upon the substitution of high-quality work accomplished during cancellations,” according to Gateway’s website.

Gateway’s Blizzard Bag program for snow days includes one-time assignments to be completed and returned within five days of the canceled school day, or a series of linked assignments that can be reviewed immediately, but are part of a long-term project that needs to be completed by May 15. Teachers are to prepare the lessons, review and assess the completed assignments and provide support for students between the assignment and completion days. Students who don’t complete their Blizzard Bag assignments could be “marked absent” for that day, affecting their attendance records. Or they could receive a zero for that assignment.