Alternative Structured Learning Day Programs
|To:||Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Educational Collaborative Directors|
|From:||Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education|
|Date:||June 26, 2019|
This memorandum provides updated information to superintendents, charter school leaders, and educational collaborative directors on "alternative structured learning day programs."1 These programs include offsite educational programs for missed school days, "blizzard bags," and "E-Learning Days."
In the few years since some districts and schools began implementing alternative structured learning day programs, parents and other stakeholders have raised concerns about whether all students can have equitable access to these programs. Additionally, concerns have been raised regarding whether such programs meet the standards for "structured learning time."
In response to these concerns, in October 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) announced that it would convene a work group during winter 2018-2019 to review alternative structured learning day programs. With help from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS), 10 school districts were identified to participate in the work group, representing both districts with locally approved alternative structured learning day programs and those without such programs. The work group also included representation from the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-MA), and the Massachusetts School Administrators' Association (MSAA).
Based on the review of the development and implementation of these programs and the concerns raised, the Department will discontinue the alternative structured learning day programs pilot after school year 2019-2020. While previous locally-approved programs may be implemented as needed through school year 2019-2020, districts and schools should take care to implement these in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law. While the Department recognized these programs as possible solutions to school closings due to an emergency or extraordinary circumstance that forces the closing of school for one or more days, the decision to discontinue the use of alternative structured learning day programs is based upon a variety of factors, including concerns about equitable access for all students.
As stated in the Department's February 2016 memorandum2 on alternative structured learning day programs, the Department encourages leaders to examine alternatives for meeting student learning time requirements in ways that would enhance student learning while providing more flexibility to deal with unanticipated school closures due to an emergency or extraordinary circumstance. In addition to making every attempt to reschedule school days lost due to inclement weather, leaders should consider holding the first day of school prior to Labor Day. Other possibilities include scheduling a one-week vacation in March instead of week-long vacations in February and April.
The Department recognizes that this change in policy impacts districts and schools with current locally approved plans or those in the process of developing alternative structured learning day programs. Please contact or Shay Edmond with any questions related to this memorandum. Helene Bettencourt
Additional Student Learning Time Resources
- Massachusetts Student Learning Time Regulations 603 CMR 27.00
- Under the Massachusetts Student Learning Time regulations, school committees and charter school boards of trustees are required to schedule a school year that includes at least 185-days at each school, and are required to operate each school for at least 180-days per school year. In addition, schools must ensure that students are scheduled to receive a minimum of 900 hours of structured learning time per school year for elementary school students and a minimum of 990 hours of structured learning time per school year for secondary school students. Kindergarten students must receive a minimum of 425 hours of structured learning time per school year. Please access the link above to access the Massachusetts student learning time regulations.
- Student Learning Time Questions and Answers
- This is a handy collection/guide of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Student Learning Time.
- Massachusetts Student Learning Time Waiver Process
- In April 2013 the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education granted the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education authority to approve waivers for innovative programs that are expecting to operate less than the hour and day requirements established in the Massachusetts Student Learning Time Regulations (603 CMR 27.00). The intent of this waiver process is to enable innovative programs and schedules that will benefit students educationally and improve student learning. This waiver process is not intended for emergency cases or extraordinary circumstances (e.g., natural disaster) that force the closing of one or more of the district's schools. Please visit the student learning time waiver process website for additional information, including but not limited to the application and timelines.
Please contact Shay Edmond ( / 781-338-3217) and/or Ruth Hersh ( firstname.lastname@example.org / 781-338-3211) with any questions or concerns. You can also send general questions to the email@example.com email address. firstname.lastname@example.org
1 The Department adopted the term "alternative structured learning day" in place of "blizzard bags" because it reflects that students may access assignments in a variety of ways while outside of a school building.
2 In February 2016, the Department for the second time (the first being in 2015) recognized locally approved alternative structured learning day programs as possible solutions to scheduling issues posed by inclement weather so the minimum student learning time requirement of 900 hours for elementary schools, 990 hours for secondary schools, and a total of 180 days may be met. (Those requirements are outlined in the student learning time regulations). The Department issued an initial memorandum related to alternative structured learning day programs in February 2016 and updated the memorandum in January 2018. This June 2019 memorandum replaces all prior memoranda and guidance from the Department regarding these types of programs.
Last Updated: November 4, 2019