December 18, 2014

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Cold stays, calamity days melt away as school districts hit limit

Many superintendents in Lorain County have had to make the decision to ensure student safety over this January.

On Friday, some school districts in Lorain County, including Lorain and Columbia, were forced to close because of the negative wind chill, using the last of their five calamity days allotted to Ohio school districts each year.

Calamity days allow districts to cancel school without having to make up the canceled days.

Keystone Schools in LaGrange has already used the five calamity days, but the district was open Friday.

Now that some school districts have met the number of calamity days, they will have to make up any future school cancellations during vacations either in the spring or the summer.

For superintendents from Lorain and Columbia, who say the winter has been one of the roughest they’ve seen in years, the decision to cancel Friday and reach the five calamity days was especially difficult.

Lorain Schools Superintendent Tom Tucker said he consulted with multiple groups early Friday morning, including police, bus drivers and the Street Department before he canceled school.

Yet in the end, it came down to that the frigid morning Friday was too cold for students to walk through to get to school.

“There’s a lot of bare skin and a chance for injury,” Tucker said of the large number of Lorain school students who walk to school or a bus stop every morning. “It’s for the safety of the students.”

Columbia Schools Superintendent Graig Bansek had to make a similar decision when considering the negative wind chills and canceled school for all of the students.

Now that they’ve reached their five days, Tucker and Bansek are looking for ways to make up days that exceed the number set forth by the state.

For Lorain Schools, any future cancellations will mean a loss of spring vacation days, according to Tucker.

“It’s affecting parents’ and students’ lives, and we understand that,” Tucker said, adding that canceling school in the coming weeks will be a difficult decision that he may need to make.

For Columbia Schools, future cancellations will have to be made up at the end of the school year, Bansek noted.

“It’s the worst I’ve known in 20 years,” Bansek said.

Arbaugh has not yet said whether Keystone Schools will need to make up future cancellations in the summer or spring.

“Student safety is the No. 1 concern, and our ability to get kids to school and home safely is the determining factor. Nothing else,” Arbaugh said.

Reporter Melissa Linebrink contributed to this story.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.