A plow truck drives down Central Street in downtown Bangor on Feb. 2. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Bangor students had their first snow day of the year Tuesday as schools shut down because of snow and freezing rain.

But this might be just one of two days the school department fully shuts school down this year due to snowstorms or extreme winter weather, after the city tried earlier to stop snow days altogether and hold remote classes on those inclement weather days instead.

The Bangor School Department announced last October that it would use the days that schools generally shut down due to snowstorms to conduct online classes that students have become more accustomed to during the pandemic. But the school committee approved reinstating two snow days on the school calendar in December after backlash from parents.

Bangor schools generally budget for five snow days a year, but parents have come to expect about eight to 10. That means schools often have to extend the end of their semester by a few days, which would not be the case if students learned remotely instead of having the day off.

But after former Superintendent Betsy Webb announced that the district would use snow days for remote learning, some parents opposed the decision at a November 2020 school committee meeting.

A month later, the Bangor School Committee approved two snow days for the remainder of this school year. The school department is still planning to use three other snow days for remote learning, Interim Superintendent Kathy Harris-Smedberg said.

“If we say that everybody was for snow days that isn’t actually accurate, there were people who are very pleased about having just remote days,” she said. “It’s finding a balance and a compromise so that everybody feels like they have some part of what they are hoping for.”

Harris-Smedberg also made her decision based on availability of employees, she said.

On Monday night, she announced that schools would remain shut for all instruction Tuesday — in-person and remote — due to the forecast of freezing rain and high winds in the season’s first big snowstorm. Usually, that decision comes the morning of the snow day.

This year, Harris-Smedberg will have to determine if she’ll announce a snow day or continue school remotely. That depends largely on whether the weather allows employees to prepare meals for pickup at school, since the school department still has to provide lunch and breakfast to families on remote learning days.

While the calendar allows for two full-fledged snow days, ultimately, the weather will determine whether Bangor students get more.