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Fisk: Icy days 'most troublesome'

Cary Ashby • Updated Jan 24, 2019 at 7:00 AM

For Norwalk City Schools Superintendent George Fisk, making a decision on closing or delaying school is the most difficult when ice is involved.

“The ice is the most troublesome because it’s so much more unpredictable,” he said. “The ice build-up is the most worrisome.”

Norwalk was among the area school districts that closed Tuesday due to inclement weather. Other districts also were closed Wednesday as well, including Bellevue.

The icy conditions caused Norwalk to issue a two-hour delay today.

Tuesday was the third “calamity day” used for Norwalk’s high school students and fourth for those in the lower grades. 

Ohio allows districts to use up to five calamity days with no consequences.

Any days beyond that need to be made up.

The Norwalk district has two built-in make-up days on its calendar: Feb. 15 and April 22.

If Norwalk uses a sixth calamity day before Feb. 15, students would have to go to school on that day. Otherwise, it will remain on day off school.

“(April 22) can be used if we need it,” said Fisk, who expects to use an average of seven or eight each school year. “Our very first calamity day was back in September with kindergarten through eighth grade for the heat. That kind of threw us off.”

Norwalk High School wasn’t impacted because it has air conditioning.

One option in the district had been using what’s known as “blizzard bags,” which was a way to make up time at home.

“In my time as an administrator, I only remember using them once or twice,” Fisk said. “We don’t use them any more in Norwalk. We feel there are better ways to make up time. … I just never felt it was really effective.”

State law requires kindergartners though sixth-graders to be in school a minimum of 910 hours in the classroom each academic year while seventh- through 12th-graders are expected to total at least 1,001 hours.

“We are still in pretty good shape, hours wise,” Fisk said.

Before today, Norwalk elementary schools had missed 32 hours. Norwalk Middle School had missed 34 hours, while Norwalk High had missed 27 1/2 hours.

“That’s time missed from school. … That includes two-hour delays — everything,” said Fisk, who believes the amount of hours used so far is “pretty normal” for this time of year.

The process to make a decision about closing or delaying school in Norwalk starts about 4:30 a.m. Fisk begins by speaking with Kelly Ross, director of support services, about the weather and road conditions in the district.

“The city does an amazing job in town,” Fisk said, referring to plowing the roads. 

However, with the open spaces and drifting snow “in the country,” the driving conditions can be much worse. 

Fisk and Ross each will drive throughout the district, and if they need another perspective, they enlist the assistance of Corey Ream, director of operations. 

Fisk also confers with other superintendents.

“Fog will affect the county in different ways. … We really rely on each other,” he said. “My goal (on making a decision) is no later than 5:30 a.m., but the buses don’t leave until a little after 6.”

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