Derry’s First Blizzard Bag Day: 91 Percent Participation

Derry’s first Blizzard Bag Day exceeded the state requirements to count as a school day.

Superintendent Laura Nelson told the School Board at its Feb. 10 meeting about the first day the District used the prepared snow day lessons, which took place Feb. 2. A second Blizzard Bag day was held Monday, Feb. 9, but the data for that had not been compiled by the board meeting.

The Feb. 2 event brought 91 percent participation, Nelson said, which exceeds the state’s requirement of 80 percent. So the day will be substituted for a “make-up day” in June.

Nelson said she expected to compile the Feb. 9 data later that week.

The Blizzard Bags are prepared lessons, consistent across grade levels, to be completed on a snow day and returned the next day. Assignments were distributed Dec. 4 during parent-teacher conferences. They are designed to be completed at home, with teachers available online for help during the time frame of a regular school day.

Though students have up until five days after the snow day to finish the work, the best plan is to bring it in the next day so it can be discussed with their Blizzard Bag Community.

Students receive a pass-fail grade for all Blizzard Bag work.

A letter from Nelson, questions and answers about the program and a video of an Information Night are all available on the school Web site at on the Blizzard Bag page.

Nelson also took the opportunity to discuss snow days in general and how she calls them.

“We work with Pinkerton Academy on whether to close the schools or have a delayed opening,” she said. “We work with the superintendents of sending towns and the local road agents.” A meteorology service calls her at 4:15 a.m. on a possible snow day, and from then on it’s collaboration all the way, she said.

“I don’t look out the window and say, ‘Guess what, I think I’ll call a snow day,’” Nelson said.

She had some calls from parents about staying closed the second day of Juno, and for that Nelson pointed to the extreme conditions on the first day. “Gov. Maggie Hassan told everyone to stay home because there’d be no one to dig them out,” she said. So she told Facilities Director Gary Webster and his staff to stay home, and then they spent the second day cleaning up the parking lots.

She invited parents to call her if there’s a concern about conditions in their neighborhood, such as a hill that’s difficult to negotiate in snow.

“Our number-one goal is to keep children safe,” Nelson said, adding, “If someone’s happy, then that’s a bonus.”