School was canceled yet again on Tuesday in snowbound Boston, which is slogging through a recurring nightmare of a winter. For 57,000 students, it was another day for sledding, sleeping in and raiding the Netflix queue.
For school administrators, though, it was another day to puzzle over a problem that’s growing like a snowdrift on a cobblestone street — the calendar.
This was the eighth snow cancellation of the academic year in Boston. The school year was supposed to end on June 19, and tacking all those days on the end of the calendar would mean scheduling class in July.
That can’t happen because the terms of the teachers’ contract require that school end no later than June 30. So in addition to plowing streets and melting snow hundreds of tons at a time, the city is dealing with a calendar crunch.
“It’s a very controversial issue,” John McDonough, the interim school superintendent, told NBC News by phone. “Parents are anxious about it.”
On Tuesday, Mayor Marty Walsh scrapped what otherwise would have been two school holidays. One was March 17, which is St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, commemorating the withdrawal of British forces from Boston in 1776. The other is June 17, Bunker Hill Day.
That gives the city one day to spare. But there is more snow in the forecast for Thursday — not to mention the remaining month and a half of winter. And if two or more additional days are lost, they will have to be made up elsewhere.
School officials also want to make up days as early as possible because some buildings don’t have air-conditioning, McDonough said. If the snow keeps coming, a shorter spring break could be on the table, as well as every child’s nightmare — school on a Saturday.
That option carries the more serious concern of interfering with religious observances.
“None of these decisions will be easy ones,” McDonough said. “Any decision will impact many people. And we’re trying to find the right balance.”
It is the first time in recent memory that Boston has had to wrestle with the calendar this way. Boston has recorded more than 77 inches of snow this winter, or one inch taller than Tom Brady.
It’s also forcing parents to get creative. Annissa George was home on Tuesday with nine boys — four of her own plus three nephews and two friends. They huddled around a griddle and made pancakes, a scene of organized kitchen chaos.
“It’s a magical game of killing time,” she said. “You get that phone call that school’s canceled, or you see the weather forecast for the next few days, and you can’t help but just melt a little on the inside.”
And you wonder, she said, “How many hours of video games can a good mother actually allow her kids to watch?”
Seven of the eight canceled school days in Boston have come since Jan. 1, when the snow really started coming down. Boston racked up 72 inches from Jan. 11 through Monday, its snowiest 30-day period on record, and 71 inches just since Jan. 24.
Rockland, Massachusetts, where 29 inches of snow has fallen this week alone, has already canceled six days this school year. Unlike Boston schools, they started before Labor Day, so they’ve only pushed the last day to June 22.
Then again, “We’re only in the second week of February, so we’re not out of the woods yet,” said John Retchless, the superintendent.
The state has not relaxed its requirement that schools be in session for 180 days, but Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters on Tuesday that he was open to creative ways to meet that total.
He mentioned “blizzard bags,” in which students get assignments online for the snow day, a step some schools have taken in New Hampshire and Ohio. He also mentioned possible online classes.
“We need to get the commonwealth back to work, and we need to get our kids back to school,” he said.
Rehema Ellis and Susan Kroll of NBC News contributed to this report.