By Daniel Dunkle | Feb 13, 2019
Camden — The Camden-area school system's first remote snow day started with something of a battle cry from Superintendent Maria Libby, who sent out an email Tuesday, Feb. 12, saying,
"To my fellow pioneers of MSAD 28 and Five Town CSD. …Tomorrow we will make history. You will be part of the first Remote School Day ever used in a Maine public school. It is at once exciting and serious to be part of something that could change the way Maine approaches snow days in the future."
The idea, which was widely publicized and somewhat controversial earlier in the school year, mirrors in education what has been happening with many adult workers in the community. When snowstorms make it unsafe to drive to work, many employees find they can work from home via the internet. Camden-area school officials believe that students and teachers can do the same, and in the process reduce the number of makeup days they have to spend in school in the summer.
Knowing that the storm was coming, students were reminded Tuesday to have their iPads charged and that they could communicate with their teachers via email. Many also have packets for remote learning containing specific assignments, and accommodations are made for those without internet access. Students are marked present for school during the snow day if they complete their work.
Students from all schools in the district and all grades, including those at Camden Hills Regional High School, are participating.
The plan had initially met with resistance from the Maine Department of Education.
"The commissioner had initially told us we could not do it until we had five snow days under our belts, but I met with the new commissioner in January and was able to get permission from the Department of Education to go ahead and try it without having to wait," Libby said Feb. 13. "…I’m sure there are a lot of districts around the state watching to see what happens in our school system today."
Libby said she was hearing good things about how the plan was working out.
"Elementary students were so excited that they woke up early to get started on their genius bag," she said. "The middle school principal is getting pictures from parents of their kids at their workstation at home, busy doing their work. There seems to be quite a bit of excitement out there about it."
For now, the remote snow day is something of an experiment.
"I will talk to the state once we are able to ascertain how successful it was to determine if we can trade again for one of our 175 required days," she said. "We will see. No decisions have been made about another one at this point. I am hoping this will pave the way to use this as a regular alternative to having a snow day. I don’t imagine we would ever use remote school days for every snow day, but it would be great to have it as an option when it made sense."
Editor's note: Email pictures of your students working on their remote snow day. Be sure to include name, age, town and which school they attend. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org.