COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate and House of Representatives will likely vote today on an apparent compromise to forgive four additional school days lost to snow, ice, and subzero cold.
But a school will have to have missed more than nine days before it will see the benefits.
State law has already worked five “calamity days” lost into their mandate of a minimum school year. A compromise unanimously approved Tuesday by a six-member joint House-Senate conference committee would add four days to that — but only after the school has used holidays, expanded school days, “blizzard bag” home assignments, or other efforts to make up four lost days.
“It’s a simplistic, flexible, and one-time fix,” said state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), a committee member and former teacher. “I think it holds everyone responsible for trying to make up these days and sends the right message to school districts.”
Most northwest Ohio districts have already missed more than nine days — Toledo Public Schools had missed 12 as of Tuesday — and more wintry weather was expected today.
The bill drops all references to using teacher development days, days when teachers would be on the job but students wouldn’t be in class, to make up at least some of the lost days.
The bill also allows schools to expand their school days in half-hour increments as part of their efforts to make up days.
State Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), a committee member and former teacher, said the provision specifically allowing half-hour school-day extensions was requested by a local school district.
“We wanted to ensure that that proactive approach by school districts would count toward their time to be made up,” he said. “That idea actually came to me from Archbold schools in Fulton County, which, a week ago Monday, began to implement half-hour increments to help with instruction time.”
The revised House Bill 416, sponsored by state Reps. Tony Burkley (R., Payne) and Brian Hill (R., Zanesville), still includes Mr. Gardner’s amendment that states that graduating seniors do not have to return to the classroom after their commencements.
Negotiations between the chambers fell apart two weeks ago in part because of frustrations that many schools had not taken advantage of Presidents Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and other days to make up lost days. The conference committee tries to bridge that gap.
“They had their calendars planned for their contingency days, so this really doesn’t veer off from what they should have been planning anyways,” said Barbara Shaner, of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.
The bill’s Senate version would have forgiven three additional days of instruction after schools made up four of their lost days. It would have written off a fourth day for students, if necessary, if teachers show up for an in-service day. The House version would have outright written off two “calamity” days and required teachers to show up for two more professional development days that could count toward the minimum school year.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.