Snow More Makeups: Milford High School’s New Plan for Making Up Snow Days

Zach Austin , Staff Writer

Snow days are all but a thing of the past.

In a December 6th School Committee Meeting, the Milford Public Schools approved a pilot of an Alternative Learning Structure, or “blizzard bags”, to take the place of snow days starting in 2019.

For grades 6-12, work will be posted online through Google Classroom and due within two weeks while grades 5 and below will complete take home assignments. This work is continuous, and their topics will be discussed in class. According to Dr. Matthew Joseph, the Director of Digital Learning, Informational Technology, and Innovation at Milford Public Schools, students will have to complete assignments at home in place of a school day. This would allow students and teachers to start summer vacation earlier, since these days would not have to be made up.

“This is about creating opportunities to maximize learning,” said Joseph about his proposal.

Blizzard bags are not a new trend within public schools. Winfried Feneberg, the Superintendent of the Kearsarge School District in New London, New Hampshire, is credited with starting this policy in 2009. In a 2017 interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Feneberg highlighted the success blizzard bags have had since they were incorporated.

“I’ve looked at our historical participation. It’s in the high 90s typically,” he said, citing the level of participation from his students.

Despite proven success in the past, there are still concerns of how blizzard bags will translate at Milford High School. Mr. Mitchell, who teaches history without the help of Google Classroom, says that he is concerned about how many students would complete the given assignments.

“I have mixed feelings about that. I’m not sure if students are actually going to do them,” Mitchell said on his uncertainty toward whether students would feel inclined to complete the assignments at all.

For online assignments, Mitchell will give assignments through online Scholastic Magazines surrounding topics that are related to class. Although he teaches using notes, he is able to keep the work outside of class in line with what is being taught during the school day.

Other teachers are more confident that blizzard bags will succeed and have planned a number of interesting activities to send home. One such teacher is Mrs. Sevon, the head of Milford High School’s science department. As a science teacher, Sevon is able to use the elements as the assignments themselves.

“You could find data throwing snow,” she said in regard to how the weather could influence the assignments.

Sevon, who previously taught in Pennsylvania, described an experiment done by another teacher during a snow day. Students were tasked with researching their favorite scientist. Once ready, they would then build a snowman that resembling the scientist they had previously researched.

The science department would also use these days at home to help prepare students for life after high school. A list of STEM related careers would be posted online, and students would be able to research and look into the subjects that they are interested in.

Milford will make a decision on if they will go forward with the program permanently following the pilot this winter.