Calamity days bill heads to Ohio Senate, districts anxious for results

Grace Murray

Local school district officials are keeping a close eye on the Ohio Senate as members determine whether Ohio students will have to make up school days due to this year’s extreme winter weather.

The Ohio House passed legislation Wednesday, approving four additional calamity days for students, which would extend the current statute to nine days total. The House’s version of the bill would require teachers to report on two of the four days.

If the bill becomes law, schools would have to make up any calamity days exceeding nine, which could be done by tacking on an additional half hour to each school day. Every five hours of elementary instruction, and five and a half hours of secondary instruction would equate to one calamity day, according to the bill.

Superintendent Joe Giancola of Kent City School District, said he’s hopeful the bill will pass in the near future, but for now it’s just a waiting game.

“We can’t do anything,” Giancola said. “We’re right at the limit. So if the weather holds, we’ll be OK, but if we get another snow day, we’re going to have to make it up.”

Giancola said the district used three calamity days and three blizzard-bag days so far.

Giancola said blizzard bags have been in use for the past couple of years, according to Giancola, and are made in advance by teachers in case of a cancellation. The bags can include worksheets, reading assignments and other materials for students to complete so as they don’t fall behind in the curriculum.

Though Giancola is hoping the bill will pass, not all of Ohio’s representatives were pleased it went through.

Representative Michael Henne from Ohio District 40 was one of the most outspoken members on the House floor before the bill’s passage arguing students should be required to make up the days.

Brennan Hiegel, legislative aide for Henne, said the representative doesn’t want students to miss much-needed instruction time.

“Kids learn more at school than when they’re not,” Hiegel said. “For [Henne], it’s not about wasted money on teachers’ salaries for the missed days. He just thought that with the way education seems to be viewed, it makes sense for the students to spend more time in school.”

Contact Grace Murray at [email protected].