The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 21, 2014

Conneaut students will have more class time

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Starting Monday, class days will grow by 30 minutes to help the Conneaut Area City Schools district make up three days lost to winter weather.

At Wednesday night’s regular meeting, Board of Education members unanimously chose to lengthen the school day to deal with the so-called snow days. For 33 days, a half-hour will be added to the end of the day to satisfy a new state law dealing with the excessive number of calamity days district had to take because of the severe winter.

The time will be added at the end of each day starting Monday and stretching through May 15. The start of the school day won’t change. Thirty-three days

stretched by 30 minutes equals three complete school days, said Superintendent Kent Houston.

Conneaut had to cancel classes eight days so far this year. Five of the missed days were built into the calendar, leaving three to be made up. A bill approved by Ohio lawmakers last week gives districts a variety of options to make up the days. Besides extending the class day, district could choose to keep their calendar intact and make up days at the end of the school year, change the calendar and take the days elsewhere, have students do work at home (called “blizzard bags”) or any combination of the four.

Houston recommended lengthening the class day after conferring with principals, administrators and teacher and classified workers’ unions. Other options could have impacted travel plans already made by parents and school staff, he said.

“They put a lot of thought into it,” Houston said.

Board members wondered the impact a longer day would have on student athletes traveling to away sporting events. Dawn Zappitelli, Conneaut High School principal, said many of the Spartans’ opponents are in the same boat regarding calamity days and would be accommodating.

“The biggest problem would be getting the kids home 30 minutes later,” Houston said.

Teachers have said they would use the 30 minutes for intervention and related course work, board members were told.

“We need those instructional days,” Houston said. “We’re in a good position that we only have to make up three days.”

Conneaut’s liberal use of a two-hour delay to the start of the school day helped it minimize the number of canceled school days. Some districts in the county have logged 10 or more calamity days.

The state law requires districts to make up canceled days 6-9. Days 10 and on will be forgiven. Also, the law exempts high school seniors from attending class after their graduation date.

In other business, the board:

• Rejected bids for locker rooms for the new soccer/track complex after learning utility line confusion will drive up the cost. The buildings will need to be repositioned to line up with the location of water and sewer lines. Seven companies submitted bids ranging from $282,500 to $351,000. The board agreed to rebid the project, which will be financed solely through donations.

• Approved new salary notices for a handful of administrators, and also approved a contract for James Campbell, the district’s athletic administrator. Board members Cris Newcomb and Diana DiPofi voted no on Campbell’s contract, but after the meeting said wording in the contract would have placed him at a level higher than administrators who have been with the district more years. Their vote was not a reflection on Campbell’s performance, they emphasized. “It’s nothing personal,” DiPofi said.

• Approved a 1-year contract with members of the Conneaut Classified Employees Association that takes effect July 1. Members will receive a 2 percent pay hike, and in return will agree to pick up a bigger share of their health insurance, Newcomb said. The move could save the district upwards of $50,000, he said.

Houston praised the union for its cooperation, dubbing the negotiations “one of the best.”