Ohio governor asks legislature to give schools more days

Last updated: January 29. 2014 2:28PM - 1156 Views
By - emowen@civitasmedia.com

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In a school week where area districts used yet another “calamity day” due to dangerous weather conditions, Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked state officials to work on legislation which would allow a one-time increase of calamity days schools could use this year.

With temperatures dropping dramatically, and wind chills expected on Tuesday, Jan. 28 to be in the double-digit negatives, schools in Preble County had already announced their closures for Tuesday by Monday evening, Jan. 27.

Kasich said the increase is needed because many schools across the state already have used, or are close to using, their allotment of five calamity days because of the severe winter weather. “School closures can, of course, be an inconvenience, but student safety always comes first,” Kasich said in a news release. Kasich went on to ask the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio Department of Education to work together on legislation on the issue.

The governor said extending the school year to make up missed time can wreak havoc on school budgets and schedules.

“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,” Kasich said.

A few years ago Ohio had dropped down to three calamity days, but that number was increased back to five days in 2011.

Prior to this week, Eaton Community Schools had already used eight calamity days. They have already made up three of them via “E-days” which allow students to do work online to make up for the classroom time they had missed.

Dr. Barb Curry said recently, the E-Days had gone well.

“Considering that this was the first year of implementing the E-Day plan, generally it went well,” Curry said. “There were some families that experienced some glitches with their technology and the E-Day links. Once students returned to school, support was given to students without computers or those that had difficulties. Overall we have received positive feedback from members of our staff and school families.”

According to Curry, when the school calendar was adopted on Feb. 11, 2013, the plan stated “any needed make-up days would take place during the weekdays throughout the school year, and in June.”

The decision to close schools is not taken lightly, Curry noted. “There are many factors to consider prior to making the decision to close school. The safety of the students is the impetus of the decision-making process. I take into consideration the information on weather forecasts, current weather conditions, road conditions, temperature and wind-chill factors, and school parking conditions.”

National Trail students were closing in on a week of days missed, and had used one E-day.

“The feedback we have received so far is overall positive,” NT Superintendent Jeff Parker said. “We had over 27,000 hits on our E-Day on Moodle , which is where our E-Day lessons are housed. We did have some time issues with some videos from the lessons loading.

“Our students have two weeks in order to complete the E-Day lessons, so students who do not have Internet access at home can complete the assignments at school or some other location. We are also keeping our computer labs open on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after the E-Day until 5 p.m”

Although they have had them in place for awhile, this has been the first year Trail has used them. “We have had E-Days for three years, but this is the first time we have needed to use them, so we are planning to be flexible in working through questions that come up about the overall success of using E-Days,” Parker explained.

“The primary factor I use in making the decision to delay or close is if the conditions are safe for the buses to transport students. With the wide variety of types of roads we have in our district, it can be a difficult decision because the conditions can vary quite a bit, depending upon where the road(s) are located,” Parker said.

Twin Valley Community Local Schools had used eight calamity days prior to this last cold snap.

“We are not utilizing E-Days,” TV Superintendent Dr. Clint Moore said.

“My criteria for the 2-hour delay or closure are developed as I drive the roads and determining what is a reasonable level suitable for safe driving conditions. Some variables I consider are: timing of the event, temperature, amount of snow and ice currently on the ground and what the forecast is predicting.”

Preble Shawnee already has make up days on calendar, and already used one on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 21.

The next scheduled make-up days will be President’s Day, May 22-23, and May 27 if necessary. All make-up days for the district can be found on Preble Shawnee’s school calendar on the district’s website.

According to Superintendent Dave Ulrich, past 10 days missed, the school will use the state’s option of extending the school days. Each day needed means an extension of five hours for kindergarten through sixth grades, five 1/2 hours for grades 7-12.

Ulrich said districts can lengthen days in increments of half hours. Several years ago, Preble Shawnee used 15 calamity days, so the district has experience in extending days.

Ulrich said he gets information from lots of different sources when trying to determine whether or not to close school or have a delay on any given day. Sources range from the National Weather Service to regional weather outlets. He talks to township trustees, the county engineer’s office, and the Village of Camden — as well as other superintendents to discuss roadways, etc.

Ulrich says he pays close attention to conditions of several roads, including Camden-West Elkton Road, Somers-Gratis, etc.

Temperature comes in to play when it is very cold. In talking with other superintendents, ” We have a guidelines,” Ulrich said. “Basically, if you have a temperature that with the wind chill there is a double-digit negative temperature, then we will close.”

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