Sisters Loren (left) and Megan Jamieson spent their second snow day of the week shoveling snow from their driveway on Fletcher Street.
Sisters Loren (left) and Megan Jamieson spent their second snow day of the week shoveling snow from their driveway on Fletcher Street. (NASHOBA PUBLISHING/AMELIA PAK-HARVEY)

With the majority of the winter finished, the region's school snow days are piling up along with the snow. Yet most superintendents say the number is similar to previous school years.

Both the North Middlesex and Ayer-Shirley regional school districts have called five snow days so far, making the end of their school year June 20 instead of June 13, as originally scheduled.

But Ayer-Shirley Superintendent Carl Mock said the number is on track with those of the last two years.

"We're all keeping our fingers crossed that after February vacation that we have a smooth run into April, but frankly some of the nastiest weather can come in those late winter storms," he said. "I wish I were optimistic, but I suspect there will be another day or two."

Calling snow days is no easy task -- Mock said he is usually up by 4:30 a.m. to speak with the highway and police departments and check the state of the roads.

North Middlesex Superintendent Joan Landers also said the decision of whether to close schools is not made lightly.

"Whether to close school is an extremely difficult decision," Landers said. "Through collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Superintendents in surrounding districts, decisions are made in the best interest of students and staff."

She said the disruptions do not substantially affect the curriculum or the quality of student learning.

"Our teachers adjust the curriculum to ensure students receive appropriate instruction in all areas," Landers said.


She emphasized that because students are required to complete 180 days of school each year, no instruction time is actually lost.

Landers also said the number of snow days is not significantly higher than an average year.

Last year, the school district called eight snow days, including three in March. The 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years both had five snow days.

Meanwhile, Harvard Public Schools has had four snow cancellations, also bumping their last day of school to June 20.

Interim Superintendent Joseph Connelly said the winter season typically uses three to five snow days, although losing four days in February is on the high side.

"The last two to three years we've been having at least three to four days, if not five days, but sometimes you might go with no days or just one or two lost," Connelly said.

Groton-Dunstable Regional School District has also called four snow days so far. Interim Superintendent Anthony Bent did not return calls for comment.

State law requires schools to construct a calendar of 185 school days, although they only need to operate 180 days every school year. The extra five days can be reserved for weather cancellations.

Kelly Bortlik Kelly, of Townsend, has two children at Spaulding Memorial Elementary School in the North Middlesex Regional School District, and said their safety should always come first.

"Unfortunately, this has been a hard winter, and student safety must always be a top priority. I appreciate Superintendent Landers' thoughtfulness in calling snow days, as opposed to past practice where it seemed to me that snow days were called too far in advance of actual snowfall," Kelly said.

Kelly said she does not think the snow days have had a substantial impact on student learning this year.

"We have been lucky that most snow days this year have been aligned with vacation weeks, so I don't believe they will have a major impact on the continuity in learning," she said.

Lisa Gagner Lewand, who has one child at North Middlesex Regional High School and two children who have graduated, suggested eliminating February vacation as an alternative to adding school days on to the end of the year.

"I do think the idea of worrying about adding days onto the end of the year could easily be solved by eliminating February or April vacation or, at the very least, by eliminating April vacation and replacing it with a four-day weekend consisting of the Friday before and Monday after Easter off," Lewand said.

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