OXFORD – The majority of the SAD 17 Board of Directors have agreed to amend school policy and allow a two-hour delay, if needed, on stormy days.

The action was implemented Tuesday night as the school district was faced with perhaps its 12th day of school cancellation Wednesday under the threat of more wintry weather.

“We’re making the best of a bad situation,” Superintendent Mark Eastman explained. “We’re thinking we’d like not to celebrate July 4 at school.”

Under previous existing board policy, the directors had allowed Eastman to use a 90-minute delay but have balked at a two-hour delay saying it would cut too deeply into classroom instruction. Based on that prior dictate, Eastman presented a plan that would provide a two-hour delay but with a one-hour extension of school at the end of the same day with no activities and no activity buses. School board members amended that suggestion, several saying they believed it was too much to ask of students and staff to stay that late into the day.

Additionally, Eastman presented two other options. The first would designate May 21, a teacher workshop day, as a student day and move the workshop scheduled for that to Saturday, May 17. The second would make April 12 and May 31, both Saturdays, as student makeup days, if needed.

A plan to hold classes during April vacation was scrubbed when 170 of the 325 staff members said in a recent survey they would not be available during April vacation to be in school. The overwhelming number of staff also said they would prefer a two-hour delay rather than attending school on Saturday.

The goal of all the plans was to keep the last student day at June 20. Originally, the school calendar called for June 13 to be the last day of school. Students must have 175 days of instruction per year under state regulations, teachers must work 181. There are six “snow” days built into the school calendar that must be approved at the beginning of the school year by the Board of Directors and the Department of Education. SAD 17 has used all six and an additional five days due to snowstorms.

The two-hour delay rule will mean prekindergarten would be canceled.

Because of the large geographical area that the 2,200 elementary students and 1,500 middle/high school students are bused from, it is possible that two hours will not be sufficient time to make a delayed day possible, as was the case recently, Eastman said.

In other snow-related information, Eastman announced that a structural engineer was called to the district this week to examine the school roofs in light of the heavy snow. Students in the old Perkins Building, a wing in the Oxford Elementary School School were removed from classes Tuesday when some concern was expressed about the amount of snow on that portion of the roof. Although there was no immediate danger to students or staff, Eastman said they decided to “play it safe” and evacuate the students and staff until the snow could be removed. The engineer has recommended that any additional snow that comes in the future be removed from all the school roofs.

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