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Published: Thursday, 2/20/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Ohio students may get 4 more ‘calamity days’

House approves bill easing effect of snowy, cold winter

BY JIM PROVANCE AND NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

COLUMBUS — The Ohio House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to give schools a little more breathing room by writing off four more days lost to snow, ice, and subzero temperatures for students, but only two for teachers.

The bill now goes to the Senate, but it is unknown when it will vote on the legislation.

The House voted 82-16 across party lines to forgive up to two “calamity” school days on top of the five allowed under current law.

The bill also adds two teacher professional development days when students won’t be in class but will still count toward the minimum required school year. Even though students won’t be in school on the teacher development days, those two days will count as “calamity days” for students.

As originally proposed, the bill would have forgiven four additional days outright for both students and teachers.

SNOW DAYS USED

Oregon: 15

Perrysburg: 10

Sylvania: 13 for elementary, 12 for grades 6-12

Toledo: 12

Washington Local: 13

Anthony Wayne: 12

“As of Feb. 7 — and a lot has happened since Feb. 7 — approximately one-third of the state’s school districts had already used five of their calamity days, and many of my [northwest Ohio] districts have used in excess of 10,” said state Rep. Tony Burkley (R., Payne).

All 16 of the “no” votes were cast by Republicans.

“They’ve had opportunities to make up some of these days,” Rep. Michael Henne (R., Clayton) said. “We had Presidents’ Day at the beginning of the week. How many of my district schools used that opportunity to make up days? None.

“It’s time for us to get our priorities in order,” he said.

“We still have plenty of days where they can make up these days,” Mr. Henne said. “They can use some Saturdays. They can use these extra half hours [added to school days]. We have spring break.”

The bill gives schools the authority to expand school days in half-hour increments to make up some of the time.

It also expands by one week the upcoming period for the completion of scheduled achievement tests as a result of the lost days.

The sole negative votes from northwest Ohio were cast by Reps. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), and Jeffrey McClain (R., Upper Sandusky).

Toledo Public Schools, with 12 missed days so far, announced last week that previously scheduled districtwide waiver days and delayed starts would be canceled.

Students had a full day Wednesday and will have full days on March 26, April 9, and May 14.

District officials also have said they will use the “blizzard bag” option, in which class assignments are sent home with students, to make up some missed time over spring break.

Sylvania students in grades 6-12 have missed 12 days, while elementary schools have missed 13. The district canceled a teacher in-service day on Tuesday to help make up for the lost time.

Perrysburg missed its 10th day this week.

Oregon City Schools have missed 15 days, though the district had an extra two-day buffer because it had scheduled more than the state minimum.

The bill gives the same day forgiveness break to charter schools, even though they measure their school days in hours rather than days.

Uptown’s Toledo School for the Arts likely won’t need the extra time, even though the school has missed 12 days because of weather.

While charter schools must have a minimum of 920 instruction hours, the Toledo School for the Arts has about 1,200 because it uses a longer school day.

Martin Porter, school director, said he didn’t think the legislation would have much impact on most charter schools.

School officials also said they weren’t worried about students missing school because of the snow and cold. That’s because TSA replaced textbooks with iPads this year, and technology helped.

Teachers recorded lessons and posted them online, along with homework. Some staff members even gave tests online.

“TSA has moved away from textbooks and uses iPads to provide actual instruction, including lectures, notes, and exams via the Internet as opposed to losing completely the instructional time in snow days,” Mr. Porter said.

Traditional public school districts will move to a minimum numbers hours, instead of school days, next year.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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