ELYRIA — Be it snow or frigid temperatures or utility outages, the number of reasons why local districts have had to cancel classes this year runs the gamut.
Before parents start wondering if it will mean a shorter spring break or longer school year – typical options when districts are faced with the problem of making up missed school days so they can hit the required 180 days of instruction — Gov. John Kasich announced Monday that he would urge the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio Department of Education to work together to provide a one-time increase in the number calamity days allowed in a school year.
Kasich said a few more days are needed because so many schools have used or are close to using their five allowed calamity days due to the unusually severe winter weather.
“School closures can, of course, be an inconvenience but student safety always comes first,” Kasich said. “Many schools have already hit the maximum number of snow days, or will soon, and if they exceed it and have to extend the school year, it can wreak havoc with schools budgets and schedules.’’
Ohio law allows schools five days a year before they must start adding days to the school year. Kasich enacted legislation in 2011 increasing the number of calamity days from three to five.
This proposed increase would be for the current school year only.
As of Friday, Lorain, Keystone and Columbia schools already had used their five calamity days. Keystone and Columbia were closed again Monday and all three are closed today, so they’ve exceeded the allotment.
“We are now looking at seven calamity days. I can’t recall when we have had so many days in one year,” said Columbia Superintendent Graig Bansek moments after he declared school canceled for today.
Bansek said he would welcome a little reprieve from the state in face of one of the coldest and snowiest Januarys on record.
“This is definitely unusual weather for us and while making up two or three days will mean operating the district for that much longer, I think the biggest inconvenience to an extended year is to our parents,” he said.
Midview Superintendent Scott Goggins said there is no tried and true science to when school is closed in the district. Midview was canceled Monday and with it hit the five-day limit. With today’s closure, the district has exceeded it.
“In the Cleveland area, it’s so hard to say when to cancel, but safety is always the reason why,” Goggins said. “Let’s take Monday and Tuesday for example. Monday school was closed because blowing snow made it dangerous for buses and student drivers. But (today), the wind chill is supposed to be dangerous low and it would not be good for students waiting to catch a school bus.”
When asked if he would hope for a calamity day exception from state leaders, Goggins said it would be appreciated.
“Our parents anticipate the school schedule from what we present at the beginning of the year,” Goggins said. “Vacations and family time is planned around the school calendar and we try to stay as close as possible to that schedule.”
Goggins said there are no emergency days built into the district’s calendar.