August 2, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
69°F

Districts look for ways to make up school days

Joshua Baird; Gabe Miguel, 11; Ali Miguel; Lilah Baird, 5; and Leslie Miguel, 6, cheer on Jonas Baird, 5, as he careens down the side of the hill at Medina First Christian Church in Montville Township on Tuesday. Parents who belong to the church said they brought their kids to sled because it was the first snow day without freezing temperatures. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

Joshua Baird; Gabe Miguel, 11; Ali Miguel; Lilah Baird, 5; and Leslie Miguel, 6, cheer on Jonas Baird, 5, as he careens down the side of the hill at Medina First Christian Church in Montville Township on Tuesday. Parents who belong to the church said they brought their kids to sled because it was the first snow day without freezing temperatures. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

Some local school officials are considering alternatives to waiting until June to make up lost snow days.

Black River and Cloverleaf schools both have used 10 calamity days — double the five allowed — following Tuesday’s snowfall.

Buckeye and Medina schools each have used nine, and Brunswick, Highland and Wadsworth each have used eight.

District officials and parents are awaiting word on a state law change that would give districts up to nine calamity days to use before the end of the school year.

A spokesman from Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, said the House likely will pass a bill today to extend the days.

But even if the legislation passes, school officials said the bigger concern is missing so many days ahead of important Ohio Graduation Tests scheduled for March and state achievement tests set for April and May.

“When you miss school right now, you’re missing prime time for learning things on that test,” said Andy Hill, superintendent of Wadsworth Schools. “The days give us relief at the end of the year, but we can’t get back what we’re losing here.”

He said that extra days would be made up at the end of the school year, according to a calendar approved by the school board at the start of the year. The school board could change the schedule, he said, but added it’s often difficult to get parents to agree to a change in school days or hours.

Brunswick Superintendent Mike Mayell said he doesn’t like the idea of adding days to the end of the year or extending the school day. Instead, he is looking to create state-approved “blizzard bags” to be sent home during spring break to allow the district to make up some of the lost time.

“We’ve created three days worth of lessons,” he said. “They get the assignments online and they do them at home.”
In Black River, Superintendent Janet Wyckoff said her board is meeting Thursday and also would consider using blizzard bags.”

But Wyckoff suggested a better idea would be “if we could tack on some extra time at the end of the day — especially for the high school students.”

“You’re trying to get kids prepared to pass these tests,” she said.

Wyckoff said she’s not surprised the state is hesitating to add calamity days, noting that teachers are salaried employees and receive the same pay regardless of the number of days the schools are closed.

“It’s taxpayer money being spent.”

Mike Dittoe, spokesman for Batchelder, agreed that issue was important.

“It’s a huge cost to taxpayers with no return on investment,” Dittoe said.

Dittoe said the legislation was discussed last week, and members had concerns about allowing both blizzard bags, which were approved two years ago, and an additional four calamity days.

Blizzard bags can be used to make up for up to three calamity days.

“That gives a total of 12 days not in the classroom, with teachers being paid, along with other educational resources expended,” Dittoe said.

Dittoe said he thinks members have had time to hear feedback from school officials, parents and students on the unusual number of snow days, and said he thinks the Legislature will approve the additional days despite the reservations.

“By and large, the law does allow the schools to have local control. They can decide what fits for them,” he said. “They don’t have to use all nine; they can take up to nine.”

Dittoe said he expects the legislation to be approved by the House at the end of today, and it will move on to the Senate for consideration.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.