NEW LONDON — Ten years ago, Kearsarge Regional School District sent students home with blizzard bags for the first time to prepare them to continue their studies, regardless of inclement winter weather.
Kearsarge was the first district in New Hampshire to pilot the now much more widely used practice of providing students with blizzard bags to reduce the number of snow days each year. The initiative was overseen by the district's previous superintendent, Jerry Frew.
Kearsarge is able to count each blizzard bag day as a day of school, as long as 80 percent of students, at minimum, complete their work for the day. As a result, the district is able to prevent snow days from accumulating and extending the school year at the expense of summer vacation. Students are also able to continue their studies, regardless of snow and ice conditions.
"Blizzard bag days allow our students and educators to continue their lessons seamlessly, and also provide an opportunity for students to dive a little deeper into topics that will enrich their current studies," Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said. "They also help us to reduce the number of snow days, and alleviate the impact a particularly snowy winter can have on summer break."
Elementary school students at Kearsarge are given physical bags at the beginning of each school year, which include worksheets and various tasks for students to do, should the superintendent declare a blizzard bag day.
Middle and high school students turn to their computers on any given blizzard bag day at Kearsarge, and often continue working on projects, activities, lessons and other classwork from the previous day. Their teachers are available to answer questions by email or phone, and little disruption is made to their lessons.
Kearsarge has established a practice of never holding two blizzard bag days in a row, however. Instead, Superintendent Feneberg will declare a snow day if needed.
Initially, the district was limited to using five blizzard bag days, but since the 2016-2017 school year, that restriction has been lifted by the state. Only once has the district ever used six blizzard bag days.
As of Wednesday, Feb. 12, Kearsarge has held three blizzard bag days this school year and three snow days.