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Published: Thursday, 2/13/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

House delays vote on ‘snow days’ measure

BY JIM PROVANCE AND NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

COLUMBUS — A disagreement among House Republicans over how to help schools deal with a growing number of weather-related missed days prompted the chamber on Wednesday to postpone a bill that may have written off four of those days.

The chamber voted 57-34, with Democrats objecting, to postpone the vote, probably until next week.

“You can imagine within our caucus there was a grand spread of folks who didn’t like it at all, those who understand the practicality of it, and those who were very supportive of it,” Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) said.

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House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) said one suggestion in caucus was making forgiveness of days a last resort only after schools have exhausted holidays, longer school days, and other options.

The law calls for at least 182 days of school. After factoring out permitted days lost to weather and teacher professional development, that number can drop to 173.

House Bill 416, sponsored by Reps. Tony Burkley (R., Payne) and Brian Hill (R., Zanesville), would have taken the minimum school year to 169.

“The state currently allows five calamity days,” said Jim Gault, Toledo Public Schools’ transformational leader in charge of curriculum. “They’re talking about adding four. We are at day 11. … We’ve never been this far above, as far as I know, the number of missed days that the state permits.”

TPS plans to send “blizzard bags” of paper assignments home with students to be completed over the April spring break.

Failure to forgive days could be a financial blow to TPS. The district's contract with teachers includes an uncommon provision requiring them to be paid for each day tacked on to the school year. That could mean about a week's worth of unbudgeted payroll.

“School districts need this bill passed as soon as possible so they can figure out if they’re going to have to add the extra half an hour at the end of the day,” Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) said.

He was referring to a provision in the bill to allow schools to expand school days by increments of half an hour to gradually make up lost days.

Perrysburg has missed nine days, which puts it right at the cutoff line if the additional four-day forgiveness passes, according to a district spokesman. Otherwise, it may have to add days.

While many districts plan to simply tack days on to the end of the year if necessary, Sylvania will make up a day with what was supposed to be teacher in-service day on Tuesday. Elementary students have missed 12 days so far, while junior and high school students have missed 11.

Superintendent Brad Rieger said Sylvania may have to use summer days, but, like TPS, there are no plans to use Presidents Day on Monday.

"[The bill] gives us maximum flexibility in how to deal with our calamity day situation," he said.

Oregon City Schools have missed 14 days, though the district had an extra two-day buffer because it scheduled more than the state minimum.

Washington Local Schools have missed 12, although Superintendent Patrick Hickey said it’s not yet clear how many days students will have to make up. He's awaiting state confirmation on whether the district had scheduled one or two days above the state minimum.

Depending on state action, and how many days WLS would need to make up, Mr. Hickey said he's sticking with a plan to tack days on to the calendar in June.

"We will put pen to paper once the legislation is completed and our current days over the ‘minimum’ are verified," Mr. Hickey said.

The Ohio Senate, meanwhile, is exploring some other ideas.

Senate Bill 273, sponsored by Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), attempts to keep graduation ceremonies on track by allowing seniors to not return to the classroom after they receive their diplomas.

Senate Bill 269, sponsored by Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), would excuse three days instead of four.

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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