School Approval Waivers

Waivers and Rescheduled Instructional Days Information and Frequently Asked Questions


Required Instructional Days  
Each school administrative unit (SAU) is required to maintain at least 180 days for all of its schools with at least 175 days used for instruction. Rule Chapter 125 defines an instructional day as a day during which both students and teachers are present, either in school or in another setting, and engaged in a portion of the day that is devoted to the teaching-learning process. An instructional day must be a minimum of three hours in length for K-12, and for grades 1-12 must average five hours in length over a consecutive two-week period.  Other minimum requirements for public pre-school programming can be found in Rule Chapter 124

SAUs that provide meals to students and adhere to the requirements for an instructional day may count a remote day toward the 175 instructional days requirement. 

Child Nutrition 
SAUs that have entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) are responsible for providing meals to students during each instructional day. 

Child Nutrition Waivers Due to COVID-19 Related School Closures
With increased illnesses impacting schools across Maine, School Administrative Units (SAUs) may be eligible for nutrition waivers if COVID-19 contributes to a school closure and the SAU moves to a remote instructional day. Under these circumstances, National School Lunch Program non-congregate, parent and guardian meal pick-up, meal service times, and Offer Versus Serve waivers can be used if the SAU is still counting the time as an instructional day (according to the expectations in Chapter 125.) These waivers are not for snow days, non-COVID related remote learning, or meals served on non-instructional days.

Please email if you need to request these waivers or for more information regarding the waivers. SAUs will also need to complete this form.

Under what circumstances could SAUs request these NSLP waivers? If school has been closed due to COVID-19, and this is limiting congregate meal service and students are learning remotely as an instructional day, then the waivers can be requested.

What about Community and Adult Care Food Programming (CACFP)? Waivers for CACFP At-Risk must be COVID related. Please contact Alissa Mank for more information on waiver requests.

Non-Congregate Meal Service Waivers
On February 6, 2023, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) statewide waiver request to provide non-congregate meal service in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and the NSLP Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Please visit this link to view the waiver.  

Under the waiver approval, Maine DOE’s local program operators may serve meals in a non-congregate setting, adjust the time of meal service, allow parent pick up, and allow service of meals at non-school sites. In addition, high schools (grades 9-12) are not required to use “offer versus serve” at lunch. This waiver is for situations in which congregate meal service operations are limited due to natural disasters, unscheduled major building repairs, court orders relating to school safety or other issues, labor-management disputes, or, when approved by the state agency for a similar unanticipated cause.   

In order to apply for non-congregate meal service waivers for remote learning, please complete the Request for the Non-COVID Unanticipated School Closures request form. This waiver request is for non-COVID related requests where the school administrative unit would like to serve remote meals on remote learning days during unanticipated school closures, such as weather-related remote days. Waiver approvals for the SBP and NSLP waivers are valid through June 30, 3023. 

Health or Safety Concerns 
If an instructional day must be shortened due to a health or safety concern, the day is considered a full day if the school has been in session for 2.5 hours.   
Rescheduling Instructional Time 
If an instructional day must be cancelled, a SAU is expected to reschedule that time.  According to Rule Chapter 125, Section 5.01, acceptable methods to reschedule instructional days include the following: 

  • Rescheduling or shortening scheduled vacation.
  • Postponing the scheduled school closing date. 
  • Providing up to 25 one-hour extensions of the instructional day to equal a maximum of five 5-hour make-up instructional days in a school year in accordance with a plan approved by the Commissioner. 
  • Conducting classes on weekends. 
  • Other ways not included above, which will be incorporated into a plan approved by the Commissioner.  

Click here submit a request for Commissioner approval of rescheduled instructional days. 

Graduating Students 
According to statute, SAUs may allow secondary students to graduate up to five days prior to the regularly scheduled end of the school year.  The regularly scheduled end of the school year is the anticipated last day of school established by the adoption of the calendar by the school board. 
Requesting Waivers 
The Commissioner may waive the minimum school year requirements for a single school, or several schools in the SAU, upon submission of a written application from the school board. A waiver may be granted only after school officials have exhausted all reasonable avenues for making up lost instructional days. All waiver applications must be submitted here.  

The SAU is required to provide identification of which school or schools were affected, a description of the circumstances that led to the waiver request and detailed actions taken to make up lost instructional day(s). School boards are encouraged to keep the number of potential weather-related cancellations in mind when they consider subsequent school year calendars. SAUs are encouraged to submit a waiver request only after the school board has finalized an updated school calendar. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

If I use the option to extend five school days by one hour, may one or more of the days be a planned early release day?

  • Yes, provided that in any two-week period, the average school day is at five hours before the extended hours are added. 

If I have an emergency closure that is not weather-related and applies to only some of the schools in my school administrative unit, may I apply for a waiver for just that population of students?

  • Yes, provided the school administrative unit has made every effort to make up lost school days through reasonable avenues. 

May I request a waiver for just the senior population if we cannot meet the “no greater than five days” difference?

  • Yes, provided the school administrative unit has made every effort to make up lost school days through reasonable avenues.