COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Senate plans to vote Wednesday on a proposal to let schools take up to four additional days off this year because of the winter season’s weather, provided they first use five days they already have scheduled for contingencies.
Snow, ice and bone-chilling temperatures have led many districts across Ohio to exhaust their five allowable calamity days - days schools can close without making up the lost instructional time - this year.
Many districts have cancelled classes for 9 or more days this year. Some Guernsey County schools in eastern Ohio have topped 17 calamity days.
Gov. John Kasich has been among those advocating adding extra snow days on a one-time basis. He has said if schools exceed their allowable days and have to extend the year, it can “wreak havoc” with schedules and school budgets.
A bill, amended Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee, would require districts to first use the contingency days built into their schedules before getting any extra calamity days.
Each school district adopts an annual contingency plan that includes adding at least five whole days to the school year if needed to make up any days missed beyond the excused calamity days. The bill would let districts revise their plans, which were submitted last September.
The House passed a different version of the bill last week. Its proposal would let schools take four additional days off, with teachers having to report on two of those days.
“With no clear end to winter in sight, it is important that we as legislators take the necessary steps to protect our children from the current frigid environment,” state Rep. Tony Burkley, a bill co-sponsor, told the Senate committee on Wednesday.
John Scheu, superintendent of the Sidney City School District, said blisteringly cold temperatures and busted water pipes in one building forced his schools to go beyond the five allotted calamity days this year. The district, which is north of Dayton, used Presidents Day to make up one of the days.
Scheu urged senators to grant districts more days.
“It has been said that allowing additional days will adversely affect learning for our students,” he told the committee. “I would argue that tacking on an additional four days at the end of the school year is not going to increase learning for our students.”
The bill also would allow districts make up the time off by lengthening school days by 30-minute increments. Another Senate change would excuse high school seniors from makeup days that occur after their scheduled graduation ceremonies.
Should the Senate pass the bill, the House would have to agree to the changes before the measure could go to the governor.