Schools’ calamity days now measured by time

First Posted: 1/12/2015

LIMA — Frosty isn’t going to get in the way of education this year.

Armed with a new policy, the Ohio Department of Education is prepared this time around.

The policy changes Ohio school districts’ number of required school days to a measurement of in-school hours. High schools, for example, are required to have 1,001 hours of school each year while elementary schools should have at least 910. Excess hours are then used to determine the amount of calamity hours or days allowed. Once exceeded, schools would need to schedule make-up hours.

Beginning this school year, most districts have already made the switch, including Minster Local.

Superintendent Brenda Boeke said Minster was forced to change because its old policy expired last year. With about 164 extra hours scheduled for the year, the district has the ability to cancel school without the need to immediately schedule make-up days until it exceeds the extra hours. Even with the extra hours, though, the district still has about five calamity days before it would need to makeup time.

The gift of flexibility might be short-lived, though, thanks to the inclement weather that came in with the new year. As a result, the district has only one day left after Monday’s cancelation before it would have to makeup for lost time.

In which case, the new policy enables schools to compensate with take-home Blizzard Bags, which can count for up to three days of school.

Though the switch has been smooth, it’s created more work for some, Boeke said. For example, one of its coordinators has to record the number of hours individual students are in school, even in more unique circumstances like if a student is special-needs or is open-enrolled.

Still, Boeke said most staff members weren’t impacted by the change.

“I think we need more time to see if it could benefit us,” she said.

Other districts, like Columbus Grove, weren’t required to make the switch this year. As a result, the district still operates with five calamity days. It doesn’t have Blizzard Bags, either. Once the policy expires, however, Columbus Grove will have to switch to hours, too.

“It comes down to the district’s difference in logistics,” said Nick Verhoff, the district’s superintendent.

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