Ohio 'snow day' bill clears conference committee

JULIE CARR SMYTH AP Statehouse Correspondent Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- School districts across Ohio would get four extra calamity days because of this winter's extreme weather under a compromise struck by state lawmakers Tuesday.

Under the measure headed to floor votes in both legislative chambers Wednesday, districts that have exhausted their five allotted calamity days could use the additional days only after holding school on four other scheduled days off, such as on holidays or during vacations.

The measure also allows districts to continue to make up missed days through 30-minute increments tacked onto regularly scheduled school days. They also have the option of using work-at-home "blizzard bags" and online lessons to help students catch up on missed work.

Snow, ice and bone-chilling temperatures have led many districts across Ohio to exhaust all their calamity days, most commonly called "snow days," on which schools can close without making up the lost instructional time.

Republican Gov. John Kasich backed adding extra snow days on a one-time basis, and is expected to sign the compromise.

Many public school districts across Ohio have canceled classes for nine or more days this year. Some Guernsey County schools in the eastern part of the state have topped 17 such days.

Tuesday's decision followed an impasse last month over two competing versions of the bill.

The conference committee removed a divisive provision added in the Senate that would have tied extra calamity days to professional development training for teachers. It also expanded the number of proposed calamity days from three to four.

Each school district adopts a contingency plan each year that includes adding at least five whole days to the school year if needed to make up any days missed beyond the excused calamity days. The bill allows districts to revise those plans, which were submitted last September.

Under the compromise bill, districts may also excuse graduating seniors for any makeup days that occur after commencement ceremonies.

The legislation also extends the deadline for processing state-required testing of 4th through 8th graders to June 30. The state superintendent had earlier expanded the testing window by a week due to weather-related instructional delays.

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