February 14

Augusta area schools say they still have snow day cushion

A couple more major central Maine storms could force schools to consider moving graduation, which is what happened in 2005.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The Cony High School graduation ceremony should take place as scheduled June 8 barring many more snow days.

click image to enlarge

EARLY DISMISSAL: Students leave Gardiner Area High School by bus and foot as snow starts falling around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in Gardiner. Many local schools let out early Thursday, and some stayed closed on Friday, as a snow storm blew through the area.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“It will not affect graduation at this point,” Augusta Schools Superintendent James Anastasio said Friday.

Anastasio updated the school board Wednesday on storm and related issues and noted that if snow forced administrators to call off classes on Friday, “We had only one more day until we were faced with some decision-making.”

But the timing of Thursday and Friday’s storm, coupled with some creative scheduling means a two-day cushion remains before critical decisions are required.

Friday originally was scheduled be an early release day for Augusta students, however, Anastasio told board members he wanted to change that to avoid a scenario that would combine a late start with an early release.

“The kids would come in one door, we would hand them a sandwich and have them go out the other,” he said on Friday.

Instead, the students had a delayed start and then were sent home at regular time. And any storms next week will not affect the school schedule because it is February vacation week.

The Augusta school-board approved calendar for the 2013-2014 school year shows June 9 as the last student day, but cautions that no snow days were built into the calendar. As of Friday, Augusta schools had seen three days canceled. Anastasio said the plan calls for snow days to be added to the end of the school year.

The approved calendar does not list a date for graduation; however, that is traditionally the first or second Sunday in June. The calendar of events for the Augusta Civic Center shows a June 8 Cony graduation date. This June the Civic Center is scheduled to host five local high school graduations June 5-9.

In 2005, Cony High School’s graduation ceremony was moved from June 5 to June 12 because of the multitude of snow days. The change was made after invitations had been printed and distributed, and brought some outcries from parents of seniors who said they and relatives already had made plans for traveling to the event.

That same year, officials at Gardiner Area High School opted against changing the date and instead converted a teacher workshop day into a student day.

At that time, the state Department of Education denied requests from some schools to waive the rule requiring 170 scheduled days of school for seniors.

Regional School Unit 11 in Gardiner has used four of its five snow days built into the schedule, said Superintendent Patricia Hopkins.

She said she isn’t yet worried about snow days affecting high school graduation, scheduled for June 7.

“If we have another four or five snow days, I would be concerned,” Hopkins said. “We have plenty of wiggle room right now so it won’t impact graduation.”

Superintendents from Hallowell-based Regional School Unit 2 and Winthrop Public Schools couldn’t be reached Friday because the districts had snow days.

Staff Writer Paul Koenig contributed to this report.

Betty Adams — 621-5631 badams@centralmaine.com Twitter: @betadams

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