The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 31, 2014

Schools fear snow days may impact test scores

With important achievement tests looming, school districts in Ashtabula County are scrambling to make up valuable classroom time lost to January’s winter weather.

Superintendents reached for comment Thursday said the calamity days they endured this month — on top of a federal holiday, an in-service day and the New Year’s holiday — will present a challenge to their staffs. The absences occurred as districts are gearing up for the important Ohio Achievement Assessment, as well as graduation-related exams to be held in the coming weeks.

Geneva Area City Schools was forced to close its doors eight days in January, said Superintendent Mary Zappitelli. The impact could be sizable, she said Thursday.

“It’s fair to say anytime you have eight days off unexpectedly it will put a dent in plans,” Zappitelli said. “It’s unprecedented. But it is what it is. We live in northeast Ohio.”

Depending on the district, when calamity days are factored in with scheduled days off, students barely spent half of January in the classroom. Barring action by state lawmakers to forgive the missed days, districts will be obliged to add those days somewhere on their remaining calendar. Grand Valley Local Schools district has so far lost six days to weather, and Superintendent Bill Nye said he will try to place any make-up days where they will do the most good.

Make-up days at the end of the school year come too late to impact the state achievement tests, Nye said. Two-hour delays used by some districts to avoid a calamity day aren’t an answer because class periods are shortened and cut into instructional time, he said.

Districts suffer in other ways, too. Buckeye Local Schools lost upwards of $5,000 in food service revenue for each of the seven days it has lost to weather so far, Superintendent Joseph Spiccia said Thursday. “Nobody is buying lunch, nobody is buying breakfast,” he said.

Superintendents, however, are confident teachers and administrators will overcome the time lost and have students ready for testing.

“We don’t have any choice,” said Kent Houston, Conneaut Area City Schools superintendent. “It’s critical we get back into the groove. I visited the classrooms (Thursday) and the teachers are fired up.”

“Lost instructional time has an impact on learning, but I have a great deal of confidence in our teachers and administrators,” Spiccia said.

Zappitelli said educators may have to improvise somewhat to stay on track. “I expect most of our staff will reassess where they are and change plans accordingly,” she said.

Earlier this week, Gov. John Kasich said he would urge state lawmakers and the Ohio Department of Education to consider additional calamity days on a one-time basis in light of the severe weather this past month.

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