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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 3/13/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Ohio forgives 4 more school days

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANSAND JIM PROVANCE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Wendy Hayes shovels snow at her Old Orchard home Wednesday. Area school districts have pondered how to make up a bevy of days missed because of snow. Wendy Hayes shovels snow at her Old Orchard home Wednesday. Area school districts have pondered how to make up a bevy of days missed because of snow.
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As heavy snow fell across northern Ohio yet again on Wednesday, state lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to allow schools to write off up to four additional days lost to weather on top of the five most school calendars already allow.

Despite the waived classroom time, most districts in northwest Ohio will have to make up school days, and area districts are taking a variety of approaches, including adding days in the summer.

The additional forgiven days won’t become an option until after the districts use holidays and other contingency days written into their calendars, “blizzard bag” home assignments, expanded school days, and other means to make up at least four of the days they’ve already lost.

That means that counting the five “calamity days” already permitted and the four days that they must make up, schools will have to have missed 10 or more days before they would benefit from the additional snow-day relief.

School boards would have to pass resolutions specifically asking for up to four days to be forgiven.

Many northwest Ohio districts are already beyond that, with potentially more bad weather ahead. Toledo Public Schools canceled its 13th day of classes on Wednesday. But TPS has no plans to extend school into the summer, for now.

Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault said the district will make up three days using “blizzard bags” and converted four half days into full days to make up some time, which he said should satisfy state requirements.

If not, TPS would add 30 minutes to the end of school days to make up additional missed time. Extending the school year would force TPS to pay its teachers extra, and that’s something the district can’t afford, Mr. Gault said.

“Without any additional revenue, we would not be able to afford the additional days,” he said.

Each district has its own schedule and handled weather-related closings in its own way. Some have unique circumstances that make it unclear how the law will affect the rest of their school years.

Washington Local, for instance, built five extra days into its schedule, Superintendent Patrick Hickey said. If the state gives the district another four calamity days, Washington Local students wouldn’t need to make up any time.

But if the state doesn’t consider the district’s five extra days as make-up days, then the district would need to extend the year. Mr. Hickey said it’s not clear how the state will rule, but feels the schedule complies with state law.

Many districts have been waiting for legislative action before deciding on schedule changes.

Tom Hosler, superintendent of the Perrysburg schools, said he’ll present a plan Monday to the Perrysburg Board of Education to make up two days by turning May 23, a teacher professional-development day, into a school day, and by adding June 6 to the school year.

The district may then use blizzard bags to make up an additional two days.

“I think that knowing what the [state] plan is now helps us look at our options more closely,” Mr. Hosler said.

State Rep. Gerald Stebleton (R., Lancaster), chairman of the House education committee, specifically pointed to snow falling outside the House chamber’s windows as he urged final approval of the bill. After weeks of debate, the measure passed 87-5 with just one northwest Ohio lawmaker, state Rep. Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), opposing it.

The vote in the Senate was unanimous. Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign House Bill 416.

“If we would have asked each senator to draft legislation on this, there probably would have been 33 different versions, so we knew we had to put aside some differences to achieve something in the Senate,” said state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green).

While some Ohio students will have to make up days, they should be happy they don't live in Michigan.

Bedford schools will be open until at least June 18, Superintendent Mark Kleinhans said. Michigan schools must hold a minimum number of instruction hours, and also as many school days as they did during the 2009-2010 school year, he said.

Bedford’s school year was set to end June 6, but the district has missed 14 days this winter as of Wednesday. The state waives the first six days missed for weather — so called “act of God days” in Michigan — forcing Bedford to add eight days to its schedule, because Michigan lawmakers didn’t waive extra days.

Any more days off, which Mr. Kleinhans said is very possible, would force the district to stretch school deeper into June.

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

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



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