Ohio legislature OK's extra calamity days


COLUMBUS — The Ohio House and Senate today overwhelmingly voted to allow schools to write off up to four additional days lost to weather on top of the five state law already allows.

House Bill 416 heads to Gov. John Kasich’s desk just as most schools in northwest Ohio had cancelled classes yet again because of another snowstorm. The governor is expected to quickly give it a passing grade.

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

The vote in the Senate was unanimous.

“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 Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green).

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 day forgiveness.

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 cancelled its 13th today.

House Bill 416, sponsored by Reps. Tony Burkley (R., Payne) and Brian Hill (R., Zanesville), makes no provision for using teacher in-service days to count toward the minimum school year. It specifically allows districts to expand their school days in half-hour increments and states that graduated seniors do not have to return the classroom after their commencement ceremonies are over.