MEDINA — The only thing everyone agreed on at Monday’s meeting of the Medina school board was that there was no good way to make up the four calamity days required by state law.
In the end, a divided board voted to approve interim Superintendent Dave Knight’s recommendation to allow students to make up three days with “blizzard bags” — online schoolwork done at home and turned in for pass-fail credit.
The fourth day would be made up by adding an extra day — Friday, May 30 — to the school calendar.
The vote was 3-2, with board President Tom Cahalan and Doug Adamczyk and Douglas Eastwood voting to approve the plan and Tracy Givelekian and Robert Skidmore opposing.
Both Givelekian and Skidmore favored at least one day of school to replace one of the blizzard bags.
Givelekian argued that students — especially those in elementary school — need the classroom time to prepare for the state tests.
“I want to do the best for the kids,” said Givelekian, who has a child in the third grade.
Skidmore agreed that the blizzard bags were no substitute “when you compare it to a day of instruction.”
Kristine Quallich, the district’s director of educational services, pointed out that adding days has a cost because many students just don’t show up — especially at the end of the year.
Quallich cited the experience of Blake Elementary, which had to hold a makeup day several years ago because a waterline break canceled classes.
Only 65 percent of the students came to school for the makeup day, she said.
Quallich said blizzard bags were preferable to “35 percent of the kids getting nothing.”
Several parents in the audience told the board they would rather have days added to the school year.
“Our kids need to be with their teachers,” said Brie Evans, who has a daughter at Claggett Middle School.
Kelly Parks, who has two children in the high school, agreed: “I want them in school with their teachers.”
Parks said the blizzard bag assignments, which have to be completed in three weeks, will be a burden for many students.
Becky Semus, who has three children in the high school and one in A.I. Root Middle School, said school officials should have had assignments ready for students to work on while at home during the snow days.
“If blizzard bags are the solution, why didn’t we have them in place” before now, she said.
The state approved blizzard bags several years ago, but they could be used only in districts that adopted them as an option before the start of the school year.
That requirement was dropped by House Bill 416, the law signed last week by Gov. John Kasich that gave schools new tools to adjust their annual calendar to help make up for lost school days.
The new law allows schools to have an additional four calamity days, but only after they have made up at least four days from their contingency plan.
The state allows five calamity days, but Medina has used nine this winter.
Because of the extreme temperatures and winter weather in January and February, state lawmakers said they wanted to give school leaders more choices.
Knight explained to board members they could approve the recommended plan, change it or do nothing.
If the board didn’t act, the four days would be tacked on at the end of the school calendar on May 30 and June 2-4, in accordance with what the contingency day calendar adopted at the beginning of the year.
While he voted to approve the plan, Cahalan said, “None of the options are good.”
Cahalan had suggested considering holding class on April 18 — Good Friday. But that idea ran into a legal problem: It would require approval of the teachers’ union.
Jim Shields, the district’s director of human resources and legal counsel, told the board, “We can’t just unilaterally do that.”
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How districts are handling calamity days
“We are looking at blizzard bags, which the board passed a resolution on last month,” Superintendent Janice Wykoff said. “The state department has to approve the blizzard bags before we assign them.”
Wykoff said the blizzard bags make up three days’ worth of work, and staff members are being surveyed for preferences over extending the school year another day or adding 30 minutes to yet-to-be-selected days.
“It looks like the 30 minutes is a little more ahead,” Wyckoff said.
She said the district hopes to reach a decision by Thursday, so she can add it to the school board’s agenda for that night’s meeting.
“We’re going to use three days of blizzard bags,” Superintendent Michael Mayell said. “If we have any more calamity days, we’ll have to make them up.”
Superintendent Brian Williams said the four days would be added to the end of the calendar, May 30 and June 2 through 4.
“Let’s hope to goodness that we don’t have to use any more,” he said. “There’s been enough this year.”
“I discussed in February some of the options available to our board of education,” Superintendent Daryl Kubilus said. “I’ll be presenting a resolution Monday to use our contingency days at the end of our school calendar.”
That would extend the calendar to include May 30 and June 2 through 4, he said.
“I’m praying we don’t get any more snow,” the superintendent said. “I can’t ever remember as a student or an educator ever having this much snow in a school year.”
“We looked at a number of options. We could have added extra time to each school day or take the extra days out of spring break,” interim Superintendent Dave Knight said. “We weighed the pros and cons of each” before recommending making up three days with “blizzard bags” and adding one day to the school year.
“Families have plans in the summer and sometimes over the spring break, so we really didn’t want to cut into that,” Knight said.
“As in the past, we plan to make up our calamity days at the end of the year,” said Dawn Marzano, district communications director. “That’s our standard ever since I’ve been here, for five years.”
She said the district would remain in session May 30 and June 2 through 4.
“Let’s just pray that there’s no more snow,” she said.
“We got a blizzard bag plan approved by the Ohio Department of Education about a week ago,” Superintendent Andy Hill said. “Provided we don’t have any more calamity days, we’re set.”