Thursday, April 7th, 2011
School calamity days bill in Kasich's hands
By Amy Kronenberger
School students across Ohio likely will have two more days of vacation after a compromise was reached by lawmakers Wednesday.
Legislation increasing the number of calamity days for schools from three to five passed 32-1 by the Senate Wednesday, and Gov. John Kasich is expected to make it law.
Many additions to the bill, including allowing students to do online assignments and allowing schools to use accumulated time as make up days, were removed before passage.
An emergency clause in the legislation will allow it to take effect in time for this school year.
An option kept in the bill will allow schools to make up days in excess of the five allowed by lengthening remaining days in the school year by half-hour increments.
Harsh winter weather quickly pushed schools beyond their three-day limit this season. This forced area schools to use scheduled holidays and the first days of summer vacation to make up the time. All local schools have used their allotted calamity days.
Celina City Schools originally planned to make up extra days on June 2-3. When Kasich signs the legislation the school year will end June 1, said Superintendent Matt Miller.
However, that's only if weather cooperates.
"Look outside," Miller said this morning. "It's foggy. We need those days in case we need to cancel again."
Miller said he was glad the House, Senate and the governor just concentrated on getting the two extra days for this year.
"My students and staff are very happy," he said.
However, he doesn't think the issues set aside from the bill will be dismissed completely.
"I think the language for possible makeup days through online classes will be brought up in the future," he said.
Minster Superintendent Gayl Ray said the extra two days worked out perfectly for the district. The passage of the bill will mean Minster won't have to make up any days.
"But that's only if we don't have to cancel any more this year," Ray said. "In the six years I've been here, however, we've only had to close for fog two days. We usually only need to delay."
Ohio Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, said he is happy the bill passed the Senate.
"This is a much needed change to a law that will allow superintendents and other administrators to operate their schools without the government tying their hands behind their backs," he said.
Buchy said the legislature will continue to look at positive options to allow school administrators to do their job the best they can.
Kasich applauded the passage of the bill.
"I commend the members of the General Assembly for acting in a bipartisan manner to increase the number of snow days from three to five and allow schools to make up missed time through extended school days," Kasich said. "This takes some financial pressures off of schools and frees them to always act cautiously when deciding whether or not to close school because of the weather."
Ray said she had a gut feeling the bill would pass.
"When the governor's 11-year-old daughters told him kids need snow days I found that amusing," she said.