BAR HARBOR — Snow day announcements for the Mount Desert Island Regional School District (MDIRSS) will be handled in a slightly different way this year, school officials announced earlier this month.
Cancellation announcements will be shared with just one TV station and a handful of radio stations, along with several online venues and a direct message service, District Superintendent Howard Colter said.
“The intent of the change has been to improve our ability to inform parents about school cancellations and delays in a more immediate and direct way,” Colter said.
The direct phone and text messaging program will allow district officials to contact students and parents directly as soon as a decision to close school is made. The system also will be used for early release and other weather cancellation announcements, allowing working parents to know in the middle of the day that there’s been a shift in the school schedule, Colter said.
District officials decided to inform just one TV station, WLBZ Channel 2, of their closures after WABI Channel 5 and WFVX Channel 7 announced that they would no longer run weather cancellation banners during their morning programming, Colter said. Those stations are now running snow day announcements online only, and school officials decided that if parents and others can get online, they easily can go directly to the district’s home page, mdirss.org, for cancellation notices.
Officials announced at the beginning of the month that they would post cancellations on the radio to only one station, 97.7 WNSX. However, after hearing several concerns, they expanded their plans and will now feed snow day closure information to 106.5FM WQCB, 107.3FM WBZN, 92.9FM WEZQ, 95.5FM WWMJ, AM1370 WDEA and 93.7FM WRMO.
For every media outlet with which the district shares snow day information, a separate, time-consuming phone call has been required during the very early hours of the day, said Mount Desert Elementary School Principal Scott McFarland, who is a key member of the administrative team that made the decision.
“We had this laundry list of notifications we were going to be doing, and we asked, ‘At what point is it overkill?’”
Both Colter and McFarland touted the direct text and cell phone messaging service as the quickest and best way for parents and students to get snow day information. However, McFarland said, users have to opt in to the program, and few in the district community have done so.
“In cases of the power being out, that’s probably going to be your best chance of being notified, via text message,” he said. “But we have had very few people that have opted in.”
School officials are urging parents and students to go to the district homepage at www.mdirss.org and follow the links on the front page to opt in to the service.
“The intent here has been to really have a direct and more immediate line to parents,” Colter said. “It’s meant to be helpful, expedient and direct.”