Schools’ calamity days mounting

Local students have spent many days out of school through weeks of bad weather, a situation that has caused concern about making up for lost days, both from an educational and a scheduling standpoint.

On Monday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich called on the Ohio legislature to formulate legislation to grant districts across Ohio more calamity days to avoid a high excess of days left to make up as local districts make plans for the rest of the school year.

Education concerns

In Fort Frye, staff are concerned about the effect the calamity days will have on mandatory state testing when students and staff are missing so much instructional time.

Both performance-based testing for educators as well as student achievement tests all take place in the spring.

“Students and staff are measured at the same standard regardless (of missed days), and if these tests aren’t pushed back, it puts them all at a disadvantage,” said Fort Frye Superintendent Stephanie Starcher.

Starcher said she is not opposed to Kasich’s proposal, but does think the state needs to consider testing before it makes a decision. She said because results from testing do not come back before summer break, it seems as if pushing back the testing window would do little harm.

Warren Local Schools Superintendent Kyle Newton has similar concerns.

“You don’t want to do something that causes students and staff additional work and then have those days be forgiven,” he said, concerning Kasich’s proposal to grant more calamity days.

Newton said his teachers have worried about missing too many days.

“There’s a lot of days that teachers said they would have preferred to have class because they want that contact time with students,” he said.

In the Frontier Local district, Superintendent Bruce Kidder said he remains confident about his schools’ ability to make up for lost time.

“We’ll be alright. We had just finished the semester (when bad weather hit) so we weren’t too far in,” he said.

Making up days

Kidder said for now, the district added the five excess days it has taken off on to the end of the school year, originally set for May 23. If the number gets too high, Frontier will take advantage of a regulation that allows schools to start extending the school days by half hour increments.

Will Hampton, current acting-Superintendent for Marietta City Schools, reported that the district, which has only gone over its limit by two days so far, will just continue to add on at the end of the school year only, which was originally set to end May 29.

Fort Frye will utilize President’s Day and the Thursday before Good Friday to make up days, then add to the end of the school year, originally set to end May 22.

Warren’s contract allows days to be made up during spring break, set for April 14-18, but right now Newton said he is holding off making final plans until a decision comes from state legislation.

Wolf Creek Local has only exceeded the limit by two days, and for now, administration has marked Feb. 14, originally a professional planning day, and President’s Day, for making up calamity days.

Belpre City took advantage of the state’s online makeup option, which provides an online version of lessons with included assignments for up to three days. Superintendent Tony Dunn has asked teachers to provide a fourth day, pending approval by the state.

Print and teacher meet-up times are available for those without Internet access.

Belpre’s first makeup day is set for Feb. 14, and then the district will cut into spring break, set for April 14-18, but with the online classes, it could avoid having to make up any days.

The Washington County Career Center could not report a current final plan for making up days, but past policy called for days to be made up during the school’s spring break period, set for April 14-18.

Pending legislation

Two bills have been proposed in the statehouse, both from different parties but both holding some bipartisan support.

Sen. Edna Brown, D-Toledo, proposed a bill to the Senate that would grant Ohio school districts three extra calamity days, and Reps. Tony Burkley, R-Payne, and Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, proposed a bill in the House that would add four extra calamity days.

Both local State Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany and Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta said that the legislation that will put Ohio schools on an hours system instead of a days system starting next fall will help avoid this problem in the future.

“Hopefully we can make an adjustment this year so we don’t have to penalize anyone,” Thompson said.

Phillips said she too is looking forward to the switch that will get rid of calamity days, which will mean that districts can now allot excess hours of instruction above the minimum, and as long as they do not dip below that minimum, they do not have to make up time.

“I know schools already have some plans to make up days, we just need to see how long this goes on for now so we can find a solution,” Phillips said.

Thompson said he supports Kasich’s proposal to grant more calamity days.

“It’s unusual with the combination of snow and cold, you’re in a tenuous situation because of the harsh weather and the threat of life and limb,” he said.