By Colin Foster
MIAMI COUNTY — Schools in Miami County have reached or surpassed their amount of calamity days just over a month into winter.
And with the way this winter is going, that means many area students — along with other schools all throughout the state — may be in the classroom well into June.
“We probably haven’t gone over five days in about three years, so it’s been a while,” Miami East Superintendent Todd Rappold said. “There’s possibility with another seven or eight weeks of winter weather left, it wouldn’t be out of the question that we would have to use another handful of other days.”
“I’ve looked at the forecast for the next week, and it doesn’t look good for us in terms of getting through the rest of the winter without using calamity days,” said Newton Local Schools Superintendent Pat McBride.
Troy City Schools used all five calamity days already and has two make-up days at this point. Newton has missed six days, Tipp City Exempted Village Schools has missed four days total, and had a two-hour delay on Tuesday, the Milton-Union School District missed its sixth day Tuesday, followed by a two-hour delay Wednesday, and Covington Exempted Village Schools has missed six days and had a two-hour delay Wednesday.
Bradford Exempted Village Schools already made up one snow day by having students attend on Martin Luther King Day. After school was cancelled Tuesday, Bradford has now missed seven days. The district has arranged for President’s Day and Feb. 17 as make-up days down the road.
Bethel Local Schools has missed seven days as of Tuesday.
According to the Ohio Department of Education website, schools in Ohio are permitted to use five calamity days for circumstances such as hazardous weather conditions, disease epidemic, damage to school building, inoperability of buses or other equipment necessary to the school’s operation, or temporary conditions making the school building unfit, such as utility failure. To make up calamity days in excess of five, schools have the option to utilize their contingency plans or use online lessons for up to three days. To utilize the online option, schools must submit a plan to ODE on or before July 31.
A few schools in Miami County have come up with ways to avoid being in the classroom in the summer. Troy Christian got three “blizzard bag” days approved by the Ohio Department of Education, meaning students can do assignments at home.
“We submitted a plan to the (Ohio) Department of Education to get three ‘blizzard bag’ days,” Troy Christian Schools superintendent Gary Wilber said. “We’ve made our staff aware they need to update their lesson plans on the software program we use.”
Miami East, one of the few schools that missed Tuesday, missed its eighth day Wednesday. The school had three additional “E-Days” where students could complete online assignments from home, but the Wednesday was the final “E-Day” that could be used for students.
Rappold cited bus issues as the reason Miami East missed on Wednesday.
Concepts like “E-Days” and electronic homework are something other schools in the county are looking at in the future, as well. Newton’s McBride said it’s something they are definitely looking at as a possibility.
“What I would propose to the board is we do a resolution that they would allow us to use the ‘blizzard bag’ concept, and that would allow students to make up days by taking school work home with them,” McBride said. “Some schools utilize it with success.”
According to the Ohio Department of Education website, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, districts that change to an hour-based schedule will no longer have calamity days. Instead, schools may schedule “excess” hours above the minimum number. The hours missed above the minimum do not have to be made up. However, if a school closes enough that it will fall below the minimum number of hours, the school must extend its scheduled year.
One way to make up the hours missed below the minimum required is to use blizzard bag days. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, schools will submit plans explaining how they will make up the missed hours, instead of days, up to the equivalent of three scheduled days. There are no other changes to blizzard bags.
Colin Foster may be reached at 937-440-5208 or followed on Twitter @Troydailynews