School year may be extended

“Giving schools a few extra snow days this year will be helpful and let everyone stay focused on the top priority when weather hits, keeping kids safe.”
Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 29, 2014

 

Almost every district in the Register’s coverage area has consumed all five of its allotted calamity days — and then some.

Now school leaders across Ohio, as well as Gov. John Kasich, are pleading for state lawmakers to grant them more free cancellations this year, given this winter’s relentless, frigid weather.

“School closures can, of course, be an inconvenience, but student safety always comes first,” Kasich said in a statement. “Giving schools a few extra snow days this year will be helpful and let everyone stay focused on the top priority when weather hits, keeping kids safe.”    

Temperatures hovered in the single digits most of Tuesday, but when accounting for wind chill, it felt like bitter double-digit negatives.

Every area superintendent apparently considered canceling Tuesday’s classes a no-brainer.

By about 9 p.m. Monday, all districts had called for another calamity day. By 9 p.m. Tuesday, many did likewise for today’s classes too.

Most districts haven’t hosted a complete week of classes since before Christmas, and officials aren’t afraid to admit the situation is rather unusual.

“In my 14 years as a superintendent, I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Sandusky Schools superintendent Eugene Sanders said. “I’ve never had to cancel more than five days, but these extreme wind chills have really hampered our ability to have school.”

Each Ohio district is allotted five “calamity days” each year, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

Students can miss school without making up any of those days, typically because of dangerous weather. Other conditions include disease epidemics, damaged school buildings or buses and utility failures.

A combination of weather factors determine if district officials will cancel school, including temperatures, ice, fog, snowfall, road conditions, weather advisories and neighboring district cancellations.

If a district cancels more than five days, however, they’re required to make up the missed time.

An estimated one-third of Ohio districts have already exhausted all their calamity days, according to state representatives.

As of Tuesday morning, local days off ranged from Bellevue Schools’ 11 cancellations to just five at Port Clinton and Vermilion schools and four at Put-in-Bay School.

To make up the additional days, districts plan to utilize a variety of options, with some tacking them onto the end of the school year and others sending students to classes on Presidents’ Day or in-service days.

Another opportunity: “alternative plans,” including online coursework, or “blizzard bags,” when a district sends a day’s worth of classwork home with students. Participating districts can make up three days using an alternative method.

Bellevue, Benton-Carroll-Salem, Danbury and Edison schools all signed up this past year to use alternative programs if needed, with several other districts looking to get on board soon.

Norwalk Schools approved a resolution at a school board meeting Tuesday night to pursue the concept for future calamity days.

“We don’t know what winter will bring, and it’s been tough enough already,” superintendent Dennis Doughty said. “Although the deadline to sign up has passed, the state has said it will recognize requests for blizzard bags for future days off if we turn them in now.”

In addition to make-up days and scheduling issues, this year’s numerous cancellations have many officials concerned about decreased classroom time — especially since students must complete several standardized state tests by specific spring deadlines.

Extra school days can also place financial burdens on districts, Kasich said in his statement Tuesday.

“In my opinion, the sooner we get back to our regular routine, the happier we’ll all be,” Sanders said. “The faculty will appreciate it, and I think the parents and students will appreciate it too.”

Next year, state law will require schools to log a certain number of classroom hours, rather than days. The move will allow schools to add time to existing school days to make up missed days, to avoid extending the school year. Most Ohio districts will already exceed the minimum hours required.

View the chart above to see how many calamity days your district issued as of Tuesday morning.

Comments

Dinghy Gal

Make up all the days as required. Anything less and the students get shortchanged on their education. Teachers are dedicated to teach our children for full days and a full school year so let them do it. They can work out the time. A few Saturdays, in service days and additional days in June if needed.

Sandusksquach

Keep the STUDENTS safe!!!?

Every student that dies in a weather related accident keeps ME, a retired property tax payer safe!!! When a teacher dies I can buy a new RV. I say risk it!!!

coasterfan

Nah. The students and teachers are worth far, far more than a grumpy old person like you.

Tsu Dho Nimh

LOL

wetsu

A more reasonable train if thought than taking a shot at teachers seems to be to move the tests back a week or two. There are some seniors state-wide that are at the margins where passing the OGT is concerned, plus, with the Third Grade Guarantee in effect you would stand a better chance of kids passing the test as opposed to the the summer school option.

Dwight K.

Just make up the missed school days like they've done for years...what's wrong a couple days in June

From the Grave

I say do away with the pointless tests~you're giving kids ulcers. Teach them what they really need to learn, have school all year long with multiple two week vacations, and fund schools with some other source of money, so that as$hole home owners can't vote no on our children's future anymore.

Rosa

I agree, our kids are undereducated compared to other countries. Make up all the days including the five. Let's do it for the kids

holycow

Apparently are top officials want our kids to fall further behind the rest of the world . No reason to make excuses for the kids . By not requiring them to make up these days, does not do them any favors. It only puts them further behind

mikesee

It is interesting that is to cold for school yet many schools continue to have after school activities. Also, many kids continue to attend boy/girl scouts, go to CCD, shopping etc. IMO if you can continue to have after school activities then you can go to school!

kelliandnate

As a teacher, I do believe that keeping kids safe should be our first priority. I am not opposed to adding days on at the end of the school year if it ensures the safety of the students and other school staff. In fact, I think anyone with common sense would feel this way. I also agree that when school is closed, all after school activities should be cancelled. There should be NO practices, games, etc. If it is too nasty for school then it is too nasty for practice.

Sandusksquach..your comments are totally inappropriate. What kind of heartless person are you?

Also, I always find it interesting when people compare test scores from America to other nations. What many people don't realize is that other nations don't test all kids. Here in the United States, we are REQUIRED to test ALL of our students. If we were allowed to pick and choose who we wanted to test like other nations, our test scores would probably rise significantly. So before you pass judgement on just how well our students are performing, you need to consider that fact.

Overall, I think the general view of public education in the United States is awful. This condescending view is passed from parents to children and reflected in the classroom. I think students and parents need to start taking some responsibility and accountability instead of placing every problem in the school on the teachers and administrators. In many other countries, school officials are respected at the utmost level. This clearly doesn't happen in the United States. Many teachers and school officials are required to instill respect, value, and a work ethic in the students they work with everyday because the parents refuse to do it. My view on this is, if you can't teach your child to respect others and have a good work ethic, maybe you shouldn't have children.

wetsu

kelliandnate-

I would add that the same politicians responsible for most of the messes that schools face have the gall to mount a smear campaign against public education. Demonizing public employees resulted in the weak-minded eating up the talking points rather than hold elected officials accountable. One need look no further than the Register comments to see that it continues to work.