Pickaway News Journal

Tue, Jul 25, 2017

Response to snow days varies for county school districts

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CIRCLEVILLE - Recent bouts of frigid temperatures, ice and snow have taken their toll on students and staff in all the Pickaway County school districts. The process of calculating missed time, however, varies from district to district in this first year of transition between school days versus hours of instruction.

The boards of education at Circleville City Schools and Teays Valley Local Schools opted to keep the standard school day calendar this year, which means those districts are still held to five calamity days before having to make up lost time. The inception of "blizzard bag" assignments students can download and complete at home add an additional three days districts are not required to work back into their schedules.

Logan Elm, Westfall and New Hope Christian Academy, however, opted to change to an hour-based schedule with a minimum of 1,001 hours of instruction for the school year. According to the Ohio Department of Education, hour-based districts may schedule excess hours above the minimum into the school day, which over the course of the year can offset time lost for weather or other issues.

District officials said while students have been off for all of the calamity days, teachers and staff have reported to work tending to activities like safety training and professional development in keeping with their contracts.

The following is a breakdown of the weather's impact on each school district as of Monday and the plans to put each back on schedule for the year:

Circleville City Schools

Circleville, still on the school day schedule, has used a total of 10 calamity days this year, according to Jonathan Davis, assistant superintendent. With the five allowable calamity days and three blizzard bags assigned to students in the district, Circleville has now missed two days more than allowed by the Ohio Department of Education.

Davis said a decision has yet to be made about how and when those days will be worked back into the schedule.

Teays Valley Local Schools

Teays Valley also opted to remain on the school day schedule this year, according to Julie DeLisio, communications director for the district. She said the elementary and middle schools have missed 10 days to date, and the high school is at 11 due to one day's closing for a gas leak.

With its five allowable calamity days and three blizzard bag assignments, elementary and middle school students must now make up two days at the end of the school year, while high school students must make up three.

As of Monday, the last day of school for Teays Valley elementary and middle school students is June 1; for the high school, the last day of school is June 2.

Logan Elm Local Schools

Logan Elm traditionally uses the highest number of calamity days each year due to its rural area that spans two counties, and this year is no exception, according to Tim Williams, district superintendent. So far, the district has missed 14 days this year, compared to 17 for 2013-14.

"This is two years in a row we've had a tough winter," Williams said. "This year, it started snowing in November, and now it's March, so we've been dealing with weather issues for five months out of the nine months of school."

Though Logan Elm has implemented blizzard bag assignments and is one of the districts that changed to the hour-based schedule, it currently will still have to make up three days of school at the end of the year. Those days will be May 29, June 1 and June 2, Williams said.

"Our goal all along was not to base our decision to close school on the number of hours or days required," Williams said. "If we feel school needs to be closed or delayed or open, that decision is based on road conditions and the forecast."

Another difference between the school day versus hour-based schedule is that two-hour delays now count against the district for instructional hours in school when they previously did not, he said.

Westfall Local Schools

Westfall currently does not have to make up days at the end of the school year because its extended schedule was more than enough to cover the hours missed for weather, according to Cara Riddel, district superintendent.

"Westfall has used 11 calamity days," Riddel said. "We had stretched out the school day at the middle school and high school last year so the day is a little bit longer than it was in the past. That means instructionally, if we don't have any more calamity days, we should be 17 days over at the high school, 13 days over at the middle school and five days over for the elementary school."

Riddel said the Westfall Board of Education may take another look at the schedule for the 2015-16 school year since the extended hours provided more than enough of a buffer, but that has yet to be determined. This year's schedule added about 30 additional minutes at the high school and about 25 additional minutes at the middle school per day.

"We might be able to shorten the day a little bit next year," she said. "It looks like we haven't used as much as we thought we would."

New Hope Christian Academy

New Hope Christian Academy also is on track to require no make-up days added to the schedule, according to Dr. Frank Martin, head of school. New Hope, which adopted the hour-based schedule, has lost 57.5 contact hours due to weather this winter, he said, but still has about 111 hours built in that can be used this year if necessary.

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