Calamity day makeup issue for schools

By Charlene Hoeflich

March 4, 2014

POMEROY — With no decision as to whether Ohio’s legislative leaders will approve an additional four more calamity days for schools closed by inclement weather, local school boards are finding it difficult to make decisions about how to adjust the calendar for the remainder of the school year.

There seems to be a debate in the House and Senate which, in all probability, won’t get resolved until later this month. As of now, the Senate and House have not reached an agreement on Gov. John Kasich’s call for an increase in calamity days beyond the five that schools have been allotted. The expectation, according to a news release, is that it may take a couple more weeks before anything definite is decided.

Meanwhile, this puts school districts in a wait-and-see position about whether or not they need to plan for an extended school year.

The difference to be resolved is about how calamity days need to be fitted into the school schedule. The Senate bill says schools that have gone beyond their five allocated calamity days — and all three districts in Meigs County have — must first use four of their five contingency days. Those are days that districts are required to schedule in the event they have to close schools for more than five days.

However, the House bill did not require that any contingency days be used to make up the required number of days in the school year. It gave districts four additional calamity days and required that districts use two for teacher training.

Proposals for handling make-up time under consideration are decreasing spring break days, adding 30 minutes to the length of each school day, or extending the school year.

In the Meigs Local School District, the nearly 2,000 students have missed 16 days of school so far.

Less the five calamity days provided by the state, and the credit for three Blizzard Bag days where students were given assignments by the teachers and worked at home — which makes eight of the make-up days — eight more remain to be made up in some other way. Even if legislative leaders decide on granting another four calamity days, the Meigs Local system will still be short four days of meeting the required number of days for a full school year. No decision has been made as to when the remaining school days will be made up, according to Superintendent Rusty Bookman.

Students in the Eastern Local School District have missed 15 days because of the weather. They have the five calamity days and one other day that has already been made up. The plan is to use four days of spring break as make-up days. A decision is yet to be made as to whether or not to do Blizzard Bags. The school board has already approved the use of Blizzard Bags to make up an additional three days of missed school, according to Superintendent Scot Gheen, but approval now has to come from the teachers’ union.

As for the Southern Local School District, 15 days were missed because of the weather. In addition to the five calamity days allowed by the state, the district has scheduled two make-up days over spring break, three days from the use of Blizzard Bags and, depending on what the Legislature does about granting additional calamity days, will make up whatever is left at the end of the school year, Superintendent Tony Deem said.