Thursday, April 24th, 2014

West Jeff Schools will decide on calamity day plan by March

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

Nearly doubling their yearly allocation of calamity days, Jefferson Local Schools is studying the possibility of adopting a blizzard bag policy and waiting to hear the outcome of a proposed change at the state level that would add calamity days.

As of the Feb. 10 school board meeting, the district had exhausted their five-day allowance by four days, bringing the current total of days missed due to inclement weather to nine.

Without changes to the present policy and barring further school cancellations, students need to make up four calamity days.

 “Besides interrupting vacations, custodial work and technology work is interrupted and pushed back by extending the school year,” said technology coordinator Curt Dennis, “which also impacts the limited number of days during the summer to get everything done.”

Superintendent William Mullett said board members discussed adopting a blizzard bag policy for the remainder of the school year during a recent work session.

 “You just never know what the weather will bring,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Education first provided the opportunity for school districts to make up days through an online alternative plan referred to as blizzard bags in 2011. Schools participating in the program were required to file an annual plan by Aug. 1 to be eligible for the upcoming school year. With the onslaught of snowstorms rolling through Ohio for the last two months, the ODE reopened the program to districts for 2013-2014.

The program gives enrolled school districts an extra three days, in addition to the standard five calamity days, meaning they will not have to make up those days by extending the school year or day. Lessons are posted online and students have up to two weeks to complete the assignments. Students who do not have access to a computer are given paper copies of assignments when they return to school.

 “With nine calamity days, we are definitely looking into a blizzard bag policy,” Mullett said. “I think it will probably happen. The union is on board, and I expect it will be presented at the March (school board) meeting.

 “At the elementary level, it will be more of a process of work handed out to do at home. At the middle and high school level, it will be more of the work done online.”

On Jan. 28, Ohio House Bill 416 was introduced to permit up to four additional calamity days and provide an option for districts to make up calamity days in excess of the number permitted by law in half-hour increments for the 2013-2014 school year.

Current law mandates that school be in session for 182 days, which includes in-service and instructional days. Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, a new law changes the requirement from days to instructional hours, thereby eliminating calamity days as long as a district meets the required minimum number of hours.

Traditional school districts, joint vocational school districts and chartered nonpublic schools will be required to comply with minimum hours of instruction depending on the grade level, including 455 hours for students in half-day kindergarten, 910 hours for students in full-day kindergarten through grade 6 and 1,001 hours for students in grades 7-12.

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