The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 15, 2014

Law gives school districts options

Kasich expected to sign one-time bill dealing with excess calamity days

A proposed state law aimed at the calamity days Ohio school districts have racked up during this exceptional winter would require some schedule reshuffling among Ashtabula County districts.

Districts traditionally are allowed to build five so-called “snow days” into their calendar. Days canceled after that generally need to be made up elsewhere in the school year. But this winter, with its snow and brutal cold, has forced districts to take many more calamity days than usual.

A one-time bill passed Wednesday in Columbus, and awaiting the signature of Gov. John Kasich, is viewed as a compromise between lawmakers who wanted to forgive the excess days and those who insisted students make up the missed time. The bill would require districts to make up calamity days numbers 6-9 either by adding days, extending the class day 30 minutes or via the “blizzard bag” program that requires students to complete work at home. Days 10-13 would be forgiven, under the law.

Most local superintendents reached for comment Friday said they are studying the choices — assuming the bill is signed by Kasich.

“I’m looking at it, along with the assistant superintendent,” said Patrick Colucci, of the Ashtabula Area City Schools. “We’ll look at options and put together a plan.”

Administrators plan for confer with its unions on a good solution.

“We’ll look at the contracts and reach a decision that’s best for the kids,” Colucci said. Ashtabula has logged a total of 13 calamity days, he said.

The Geneva Area City Schools district is also discussing a course of action, said Superintendent Mary Zappitelli. “We’re investigating options that will make it less painful (for all),” she said.

Geneva has posted 10 calamity days, the most Zappitelli can recall during her career in education. “It may be a record,” she said.

Superintendent Joseph Spiccia of Buckeye Local Schools said his district will probably decide between adding days or extending the length of some remaining school days to satisfy the four days it must address. Buckeye students and staff have seen nine calamity days so far this year, he said.

Bill Nye, Grand Valley Locals Schools superintendent, said he expects his district to use a blend of options to deal with the four extra calamity days (nine total). Students will be in class on March 28, which began as a staff-only service day.

“Now it’s a kid day,” Nye said.

Eleven more days will see 30 minutes added to the schedule, the equivalent of one full day, Nye said. The third and fourth days will be tacked onto the end of the year, he said.

Pymatuning Valley Local Schools have seen 10 calamity days so far this year, said Superintendent Michael Candela. If Day 10 is forgiven per the law, that leaves four that need attention. PV plans to add all four to the end of the calendar, meaning the school year won’t end until the second week of June.

Candela said he is amazed at the severity of this winter. “I can’t remember anything like this,” he said.

And spring doesn’t officially arrive until Thursday.

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