Many Ohio school districts would have to make up some calamity days this year, under a compromise agreement reached Tuesday in Columbus.
Existing law allows Ohio schools to close for five calamity days without consequence, but requires schools to make up any calamity days beyond five.
A conference committee of the Ohio House and Senate decided Tuesday that schools will have to make up calamity days No. 6, 7, 8, and 9 — either via “blizzard bag” days that many districts have already completed, or by tacking class days onto the end of the school year.
Districts that were closed for more than nine days would not have to make up calamity days No. 10 to 13.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R- Kettering, said she expects the conference committee agreement to pass the full House and Senate on Wednesday, after which it would go to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
“What we ended up with was what the Senate … was concerned about in the first place, which was having as much seat time as possible be required for our students,” said Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee.
The plan means many of the area’s largest school districts would have to extend the school year. Dayton, Centerville, Kettering and Lebanon would have to make up two school days each, while Trotwood, Beavercreek and Fairborn would make up four.
And that’s assuming they avoid any further cancellations. Some superintendents were already groaning at the forecast of more snow Wednesday.
The bill gives schools some flexibility in how they make up their days. Existing law required each district to identify five contingency school days in advance, but the current bill would allow districts to alter that schedule if they wish.
Many school districts took advantage of the state’s “blizzard bag” plan, which allowed teachers to post a day’s work online, or send it home with students, with that schoolwork accounting for one school day.
If the three blizzard bags count as “makeup days,” districts missing 10 or more days (up to 13) would only have to make up one day under the new plan. Some, like Norwalk, already did that by cancelling the Presiden't Day holiday in favor of a day of classes. Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said that’s how ODE has interpreted blizzard bag days, but he cautioned that until ODE sees the actual language of the bill, he couldn’t guarantee that would be the case. Officials with Ohio’s Legislative Service Commission also said late Tuesday that blizzard bag days likely could count as makeup days.
The drama of whether to make up school days or not should fade some next year, as Ohio law changes to require a set number of instructional hours, rather than days. The requirement of 910 hours for full-day kindergarten through Grade 6; and 1,001 hours for students in Grades 7-12 should be less strenuous for most districts to meet.
By Jeremy P. Kelley - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
Staff Writers Kelli Wynn and Nick Blizzard contributed to this story.
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