Photo Caption: This illustration doesn't include the snow day that was called for Monday, Feb. 10.
Parents hoping for an early vacation this summer may have to reschedule after another bout of nasty weather finds Ohio public schools using more and more snow days to keep students and staff safe.
This latest series of used calamity days has left many parents, students and teachers throughout Ohio asking one question: When are these days going to be made up?
Many school districts, after using the five allotted calamity days, have to add any extra days of work onto the end of the school year, reaching beyond the school's initial schedule and sometimes causing problems for families of staff and students alike. To avoid this from happening, school districts are working to make up these days as quickly as possible.
After missing 14 days of school due to inclement weather as of Friday (with another one notched for Monday), the Athens City School District plans to make up some of the lost time by having two additional days of school in February. Classes will stay in session this Friday and the following Monday (Feb. 14 and 17), days that were supposed to make up the long Presidents Day weekend for students instead.
Some relief may come from the state of Ohio. According to a Feb. 3 report on Fox 8 Cleveland, the Ohio House Education Committee has approved legislation to provide Ohio public schools with four extra calamity days.
The report says the legislation has support from Gov. John Kasich, and is scheduled for a vote by the full Ohio House this Wednesday.
Barring further snow days (not a given by any means), this would mean Athens City Schools would have four days to make up, probably at the end of the year (five automatic calamity days, plus the two days over Presidents Day weekend, plus the four days forgiven by the state Legislature, leave three days short of the 15 snow days that have occurred already, as of today, Monday).
As of Monday/today, Athens City Schools also have called seven two-hour delays this school year, though those don't affect the overall schedule.
Since Athens City Schools don't have the option of bringing students back during spring break or national holidays, it's not easy to work around extending classes into summer. While the school district is doing its best to solve the problem, Trimble Local School District has found another solution.
Having missed 13 days of school, as of Feb. 10, the district has begun implementing "blizzard bags," a system that allows schools to send homework with students preemptively for snow days or post it online for students to print and complete from home. The program has received a mixed reception, helping to alleviate the stress of extra snow days while raising new issues as well.
Trimble School Supt. Kimberly Jones said she has been receptive to feedback on the program, though acknowledging the mixed reaction.
"Folks seem glad that the kids have a way to continue test prep," she said. "Of course, as with any initiative, there are a variety of obstacles to overcome."
Some of these obstacles include students losing homework handouts, limited Internet access in some homes, and an inability to navigate the school's website. Although these difficulties can present new problems to deal with, she said, the ability to get parents more involved with students' work is a positive outcome.
These blizzard bags also allow students to continue their studies without a break in their schedule. Rather than have gaps of inactivity between school days, students can some work on their days off.
"I think that the work comes at a more valuable time in the student learning cycle," Jones said.
The blizzard bag program must be approved in advance, which is why some school districts, including Athens, aren't using it.