Debate continues over calamity days

SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) — While lawmakers in Columbus debate whether to extend the number of calamity days school districts around the state can use for bad weather, some local administrators said they would just as soon not cut down the school year.

Members of the Ohio House have a proposal to add four additional calamity days, while a similar measure in the state Senate would add only three. But so far, no final vote has been taken on either bill.

However, at least one local superintendent said losing five days of instruction to the cold and snow this winter is bad enough, and adding more would be even worse.

“In addition, that is nine days that paid employees are paid for that they were not working. We have to cancel school for the safety of students and our transportation, considering the roads. We just feel that those days should be made up,” said Springfield Local School Superintendent Debra Mettee. “Nine days of instruction hours and time being taken away from the students is a lot of days.”

The state does allow five days to be lost for weather or other reasons, but already this season a number of districts have passed that and could be forced to add days to the school calendar to meet minimum standards.

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman believes there is a need to add more calamity days and he predicted a bill will be approved on its own or perhaps as part of Gov. John Kasich’s mid-term budget deal, which could come up for debate within the next month.

“I don’t want people to think that it’s not going to happen. I think the fact the governor is saying that he wants to do it and a lot of legislators that I know feel this is necessary. I think we will pass something and I am confident we will pass something,” Schiavoni said.

But Mettee thinks the time that already has been lost could have an impact.

“We can show in our scores that the years we had no calamity days, our students did better and our attendance was better,” Mettee said.

She said she would rather see Ohio follow the lead of Pennsylvania, where all missed days are made up, or an alternative.

“If we do have a calamity day because the roads are unsafe for us to have yellow school bus transportation, that all paid staff reports to work,” Mettee suggested.

For information on the calamity day rules for the 2014-15 school year, click here.

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