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It’s payback time

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By MORGAN MANNS
STAFF WRITER

In past years, students and staff might have been singing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” during the winter season.
This year, however, many would agree they’re begging, “Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.”
School districts throughout Ohio have gone well over their state-allotted five calamity days including some area schools that have broke into double digits.
“In the 15 years I’ve been in education, this is the first time I know of that we had to actually make up days beyond what the state has allowed us,” said Brian Shaver, St. Wendelin director of School and Parish. “My entire perspective on snow days has somewhat changed. Now it’s almost a dreaded thought hearing the phone ring in the morning, knowing the weather is bad.”
State lawmakers gave final approval to a compromise deal regarding how many calamity days Ohio school districts must make up for the 2013-2014 academic year.
In late January, Gov. John Kasich urged Ohio legislators to provide a one-time increase in the number of days districts can take off because of snow or bad weather after meeting or exceeding the state-allotted five calamity days.
The first proposed bill that left the House of Representatives allowed four extra calamity days for students, while staff members would be required to use two of those as in-service days. The Senate rejected this proposal.
The final version of the bill, which allows Ohio school districts four additional calamity days provided they make up four days first, passed the House 87-5 while the Senate voted unanimously for the measure.
This means after a district makes up four days, they are given 9 calamity days — the five already allotted by the state plus four more days provided by passage of the bill.
The bill will move to Gov. Kasich’s desk for signature. If signed and filed with the Secretary of State, it will take immediate effect.
According to the respective superintendents, Lakota students have missed 17 days, Bettsville students have missed 16, Elmwood students have missed 15, Hopewell-Loudon students have missed 14, Arcadia students have missed 12, and New Riegel students have missed 11 days thus far this year.
St. Wendelin, Hopewell-Loudon, Bettsville Local, New Riegel, and Lakota Local school districts made up a day by attending school on President’s Day, Feb. 17.
School officials will be granted more flexibility in how they make up the days: extending school days, having class on days previously scheduled as off, tacking days onto the end of the year, or providing students with “blizzard bags,” which consist of a full day’s work.
Elmwood, Lakota and Bettsville school districts either have or will issue blizzard bags for students.
Shaver said St. Wendelin is considering the idea while Fostoria City Schools Superintendent Andrew Sprang said he doesn’t “see the value in the instruction” of the bags.
“The lessons are created in advance and they don’t necessarily fall into where (teachers) are at instructionally,” Sprang said. “It’s just giving them busy work to fulfill a requirement. To me that’s not an effective policy.”
Sprang said the district will be in session March 25, 16 and 31, three days of their spring break and will add days onto the end of the school year to make up days.
Fostoria City School students’ last day of the academic year moved from May 23 to either May 28 or May 30, depending on whether the district chooses to use those last two days as teacher in-service days, according to Sprang.
Hopewell-Loudon Superintendent Nichole Jiran said Hopewell-Loudon’s board is considering three options for its make up days. One option is to add 30 minutes onto the end of the school day starting at the end of March and continuing throughout the remainder of the school year. This time would equal three make-up days and would end Hopewell-Loudon’s school year on May 27.
The second option would make up days during spring break, April 14 through 17, and will allow the district to end the school year on schedule, May 23.
The third option would add all of the days to the end of the school year, ending classes on June 5.
Jiran said a decision is expected to be made early next week.
Hopewell-Loudon is the only district in the area that has considered adding time onto the school days.
Shaver said because Fostoria City and Lakota Local school districts provide St. Wendelin’s main source of transportation, it’s unlikely they will add time onto the end of the school day.
“But we’re not ruling it out as an option. If one of our local public districts adds time on, then we will consider it,” he said.
Many schools will be in session during spring break to make up some of those days, including Bettsville Local Schools on April 22; Lakota Local Schools on April 17 and 21; and Elmwood Local Schools on its last day of spring break.
Shaver said St. Wendelin will be in school Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Monday and Tuesday after Easter Sunday. The last day of school also moved from May 30 to June 2.
Arcadia Local Schools’ last day will be on schedule for May 28, according to Superintendent Laurie Walles.
New Riegel will be in session until June 2, instead of May 23.
Bettsville Local Schools will now end its academic year on June 3, instead of May 29.
Elmwood Local Schools originally scheduled to be out of session on May 30, but will now finish June 3.
Lakota Local Schools set June 2 as its last day, but are now remaining in session until June 5.
“I can say that we have a long way to go I think,” Lakota Superintendent Jon Detwiler said. “Other than snow, we’re worried about fog now that spring is coming.”
Next year, Ohio law changes to require a set number of instructional hours instead of days: 910 hours for full-day kindergarten through sixth-grade and 1,001 hours for seventh- through 12th-grade.
“Never in my wildest dream did I think we’d miss this many days of school,” Sprang said. “It’s been one thing after another from snow to temperatures. “¦ There still can be ice storms and things like that we could have.”
In the event of more cancellations due to weather, every local district superintendent advised they will most likely add those days on to the end of the year.
However, they all agreed they hope the winter weather is over.

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