Blizzard bags are a...mixed bag

Parents have differing opinions on new makeup plan. Includes updated list of calamity days for local schools.
Alissa Widman Neese
Feb 16, 2014

 

For years, hazardous winter weather coincided with hope for area students — the elusive possibility of a “snow day”

These days, a majority of local schools plan to transform snow days into a new variation of parent-led home-schooling.

The trend: “blizzard bags,” which is gaining traction statewide, given this winter’s unusually ferocious weather.    If Ohio districts cancel more than five statepermitted school days, “alternative makeup plans,” commonly called “blizzard bags,” help them avoid adding makeup class days to the school year’s end.

Schools can send home the physical classwork ahead of time in bags, or provide assignments online, and students earn credit for up to three school days.

The feedback so far, according to educators: It’s a mixed bag, no pun intended.

Earlier this month, siblings Larisa Kerik, 12, and Kenny Kerik, 10, spent their district’s sixth snow day gathered around their home computer, typing reviews and completing online quizzes.

The Danbury Schools students didn’t appear to mind.

After all, the extra classwork wasn’t too difficult, and it preserved their precious summer vacation days, mother Maureen Kerik explained.

“I like it because I can work at my own pace, too,” Kenny said.

Some parents, however, have criticized the new concept’s amount of work and the time allotted to complete it.

State law requires schools allot students up to two weeks to complete their assignments, but the amount of work typically depends on a teacher’s discretion.

“The instructions are sometimes unclear, and it’s hard for my youngest son to find the time to finish everything because he’s active in sports,” said Misty Stanley, whose children are in fourth and second grade at Clyde-Green Springs Schools. “They wouldn’t mind going in the summer compared to this”

Mixed bag reactions
Four area districts started the school year with a blizzard bag plan in place: Bellevue, Benton-Carroll-Salem, Danbury and Edison schools.

Since then, five more have signed up to participate: EHOVE Career Center and Clyde-Green Springs, Huron, Monroeville and Norwalk schools.

The slew of weather-related cancellations this year likely prompted the newly implemented policies.

As of this week, six of the area’s 16 school districts have canceled school 10 or more times this year, with several more on the brink with nine cancellations.

Some educators, such as Bellevue Schools superintendent Kim Schubert, said this year’s online assignments are going well.

“Our teachers have done a great job of posting online lessons that are meaningful and productive for our students,” Schubert said. “The students are already working hard on their makeup work and have begun turning in their assignments”

Others, such as Benton-Carroll-Salem Schools superintendent Guy Parmigian, admitted his district experienced significant issues executing “virtual learning days,” and said he’s re-evaluating their effectiveness thanks to honest feedback.

“To be blatant, there were some legitimate problems, and some assignments were unclear,” Parmigian said. “We’re all learning a lot, and the biggest thing is there’s really no substitute for a teacher”

In addition to implementation problems, many district officials also expressed confusion about what days they could use their newly approved policies.

Once the Ohio Department of Education approves a district’s proposal, it is effective retroactively, meaning schools can use their plans up for time missed earlier this year, spokesman John Charlton said this week.

Future legislation delaying implementation
Educators are still hopeful state legislators will approve a bill granting them four additional free weatherrelated cancellations, called calamity days, this school year.

Disagreement in the Ohio House delayed an anticipated vote Wednesday, which could have expanded the five state-permitted days to nine, given this year’s unprecedented number of weather-related cancellations.

Many schools with new blizzard bag policies are holding off on assigning additional classwork until the vote has passed, to avoid making students complete unnecessary assignments.

“We have to wait for the legislature to determine which direction we need to go,” Norwalk Schools superintendent Dennis Doughty said. “We don’t want to use the additional blizzard bag days going forward unless we have to call off school again due to inclement weather”

Next year, blizzard bags may disappear
Another consideration: Soon after its statewide implementation, the concept of “blizzard bags” could become extinct.

Next year, state law will require schools to log a certain number of classroom hours in a year, 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 number of hours required. This, coupled with the new makeup options, could make the apparently difficult-to-implement blizzard bags obsolete.

Some district officials have cited this uncertainty as a reason for not utilizing an alternative makeup plan.

Others, such as Sandusky Schools officials, have stated they don’t believe they’re an adequate replacement for face-to-face instruction.

Comments

ladydye_5

The "blizzard bag" assignments are WAY OVER THE TOP compared to what a student would have done in a regular class room setting. We had a teacher that decided to make her own (even without school board approval, as our school has not approved them as of yet). The amount of work is no where near what they would do in a normal day of class. Then to require quizzes on information that the children may or may not understand is not fair. In a high school setting where their grades are so closely scrutinized for college or scholarships grades on these blizzard bags, when the information may not be completely understood should still be discussed, gone over and understood before quizzing/testing. I am not so sure these blizzard bags are the perfect fit for make up days. Online assignments are not a good fit either as many of the kids that live in the country do not have internet that can keep up with the demand of live streaming video classes, and even the internet in our town gets bogged down with so many at one time. (Netflix, online gaming, computers, etc. takes a toll on our internet in town even).

starryeyes83

Could be worse, the kids could have "carried" 10 books home like WE did .. and try to do homework by candlelight or an old oil lamp.

When the power was out in '78. No back packs then.

Daylight was for digging out by hand ... :)

Just sayin'

holycow

Bottom line. Kids need to be in school. The days need to be made up. It sets a foundation for the future, that on marginal snow days, just call it off. A free day for students, teachers, and administrators . If I wanted to home school my children, I would.

ladydye_5

It is the fact they are not worried about actually being IN school. They are worried about getting the information in the children for THE TEST. After THE TEST is taken, it doesn't really matter. So to add the days to the end of the year, doesn't help much.
I agree though, the kids should just make up the days.

worddrow811

do teachers lose any money for a job they are not doing?

getit right be4...

What a dumb question.