Irene means one more day of summer vacation for some Maine students

Posted Aug. 26, 2011, at 11:55 a.m.

BELFAST, Maine — For the second year in a row, wild weather will disrupt the first week of school for some Maine children.

While soaring heat last summer caused schools across the state to send students home early or close schools altogether, this year it’s Hurricane Irene, whose anticipated path is likely to bring widespread power outages and heavy rain in many areas.

“Last year the heat wave; this year the hurricane,” said SAD 3 Superintendent Heather Perry on Friday. “We’re paying very close attention to the weather.”

While she said she will wait until first thing Monday morning to make a decision on school cancellation, RSU 20 officials announced Friday morning that the first day of school for Belfast-area students will be postponed by a day because of the hurricane. Assistant Superintendent John McDonald said that he has been glued to weather forecasts while he decided to cancel Monday classes.

“We’re going to be having tropical storm-force winds from this, no matter where this thing goes,” said RSU 20 Assistant Superintendent John McDonald Friday morning. “We just decided there was no upside to having school on Monday. It just didn’t make sense.”

For students from the RSU, including the communities of Belfast, Belmont, Frankfort, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Springs and Swanville, classes for grades one through nine and grade six orientation will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Word of the special hurricane extension for summer vacation apparently spread like wildfire among the region’s children.

Sisters Madalin and Ella Small of Belfast said while finishing a treat at Chase’s Daily in Belfast that they were well aware of the bonus day off. Each had mixed feelings about it.

“I wanted summer vacation to end, but I also wanted to still have summer vacation,” Madalin, 8, said.

And while 5-year-old Ella said she’s not really looking forward to the first day of kindergarten, on the other hand, she is.

One thing the girls didn’t have mixed feelings about is Hurricane Irene.

“We get to watch it outside the window!” Ella said with delight.

Further inland, Perry said she has been communicating closely with Waldo County Emergency Management Agency Director Dale Rowley. The Mount View school complex is one of the key shelters for the region, and if the county needs it to shelter evacuees, school will be cancelled, she said.

A notice on the district’s website alerted parents that the district was planning to hold classes Monday, but that they should pay attention to local media as well as the school’s website in case that changes.

David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Maine Department of Education, said a hurricane day would be treated just the same as a snow day in terms of having students make up classes after a closure.

“Hopefully, people will just miss a day and then come back in,” he said.

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