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Published: Thursday, 2/10/2005

'Snow days' may add up to school days during June

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA AND JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
A snow day gives Arlington Elementary students, from left,
Deontae Smith, Mara Momenee, Emily Goodman, and Simon
Momenee another chance to build a snowman.
A snow day gives Arlington Elementary students, from left, Deontae Smith, Mara Momenee, Emily Goodman, and Simon Momenee another chance to build a snowman.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

Snow and ice caused many northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan school districts to cancel classes yesterday - tipping the scale for some that will have to make up days because of the closures.

Toledo Public Schools, the region's largest school district with 34,000 students, initially called a two-hour delay yesterday morning.

But when weather and road conditions did not improve by 8 a.m., officials decided to close for the day.

"[Bus drivers] were reporting slippery conditions at 8 a.m. and only being able to go about 5 mph," said Dan Burns, chief business manager for the Toledo school system.

"Generally, you will see us go with a two-hour delay and, in many cases, that is so we can monitor the weather and the conditions."

Yesterday was Toledo Public Schools' third closure this academic year for snow and ice.

The Ohio Department of Education requires that districts hold classes for at least 182 days.

Five of the 182 days can be waived for "calamity days," which include closures resulting from hazardous weather, building damage, disease, or other temporary circumstances due to utility failure.

If Ohio districts close schools for more than five days, it must make up the extra days, said J.C. Benton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.

Yesterday was the seventh calamity day for the Eastwood Local School District in Wood County.

Superintendent Bill McFarland said the district plans to make up two calamity days at the end of the year on June 3 and June 6.

If the district accrues more calamity days than the five that are scheduled into their calendar at the end of the year, Mr. McFarland said officials have a few options, including Presidents' Day and spring break, to make up the missed school days before the end of the year.

"We're just hoping we don't miss any more," he said.

In Lucas County, yesterday was the fifth cancellation for the Anthony Wayne Local School District.

"Since all Ohio public schools are granted five calamity days per year, we have maxed but have not gone over the limit," said Susan Cross, a district spokesman.

"If Anthony Wayne Schools goes over its five-day cancellation limit, we have already designated June 8, 9, and 10 as makeup days."

The Springfield and Sylvania school districts also were closed yesterday, and now each has used four calamity days this academic year.

In Michigan, public schools are allowed to take 30 hours of "calamity time" per year in their calendars, which also mandate a minimum of 1,098 hours of instruction.

Yesterday's inclement weather put many districts in southeast Michigan over their annual allotment.

But that is not to say that each additional calamity day automatically will translate into an extra day of school in June.

Many districts build extra days into their calendars or schedule half-days later in the year for professional development, that can be converted to keep them in compliance with the state's mandated instructional time.

Dundee Superintendent Bob Black said his district spent its last "free" calamity day out of school yesterday.

"For us, it's a contractual situation. Our teachers guarantee 180 days of instruction. So after this one, we're in a makeup situation," Mr. Black said.

The Bowling Green City School District, which was open yesterday without a delay, has used four calamity days so far because of snow and ice, Superintendent Hugh Caumartin said.

"It's the luck of the draw," he said.

"Where we've dodged the bullet is fog and flooding."

Fulton County schools have been hit hard by recent fog.

Gorham Fayette Local schools called off four days last week because of fog, and Pettisville schools canceled once last week because of fog.

"Never have I seen a year like this year," said Superintendent Stephen Switzer.

"I have been an administrator for 31 years and cannot remember more than two or possibly three fog days in a row."

Evergreen Local has missed eight days so far this year - five because of fog and three because of ice and snow.

The makeup days are May 31 and June 1 and 2.

"We will continue in June if any further makeup days are needed," Superintendent Ken Jones said.

Some northwest Ohio districts have avoided using calamity days by declaring three-hour delays and tacking on an extra hour of school in the afternoon.

Columbus Grove Superintendent Gary Jones said the option has saved the Putnam County district four calamity days so far this year.

Mr. Jones started issuing three-hour delays about three years ago after talking it over with his teachers' union and the school board.

Too often, he said, he would delay school for two hours then cancel only to see the fog lift or the snow stop.

"I guess you're always looking at ways to keep from having so many calamity days, so many days off," Mr. Jones said.

"It seemed like a pretty good alternative."

Even with the three-hour delays, Columbus Grove has used six calamity days this year.

It plans to make up a day Feb. 21.

Neighboring districts such as Ottawa-Glandorf and Continental, as well as some in Van Wert County, have tried three-hour delays.

"I've probably had five or six schools call and ask how do you get this thing done?" Mr. Jones.

"I anticipate this would be used by more districts in the future."

Ottawa-Glandorf Superintendent Kevin Brinkman said the only drawback to three-hour delays is scheduling problems for after-school games and other activities.

In some cases, students are dismissed early when away games cannot be delayed an hour.

Mr. Brinkman said he tried three-hour delays five times this year, although on two of those days school had to be canceled.

The district has used 10 calamity days - two because of flooding in Ottawa - and plans to make them up on Presidents' Day and extend the school year through June 2.

The Findlay City School District closed Jan. 5, 6, and 7 because of an ice storm that left many without electricity but have otherwise managed to get by with delays.

Blade staff writers Mike Jones, Erika Ray, Janet Romaker, Jane Schmucker, Larry P. Vellequette, and Rachel Zinn contributed to this report.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6088.



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