Kasich and Burkley call for additional calamity days for school year

By MARC KOVAC @ohiocapitalblog mkovac@dixcom.com Published:

COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich is asking state lawmakers to increase the number of calamity days for the current school year, given continuing snowy and frigid weather that has prompted many districts to close their doors for more days than allowed.

"School closures can, of course, be an inconvenience but student safety always comes first," the governor said in a released statement Monday. "Many schools have already hit the maximum number of snow days, or will soon, and if they exceed it and have to extend the school year it can wreak havoc with schools budgets and schedules."

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said state law requires districts to be in session a minimum of 175 days. Districts schedule their school years with more days so that they can meet that minimum even if they have to close schools for weather or other emergency situations.

Existing state law allows districts up to five calamity days, enabling them to close schools during wintery weather and other emergencies without having to make them up at the end of the school year. Schools also can arrange online coursework or send "blizzard bags" with students so they can complete lessons at home.

However, many schools have already closed their doors for more than the maximum allowed.

"Anecdotally, there are a lot of districts that have probably reached their five, if not more," Charlton said, adding, "Cambridge is on their eighth day."

Early in his term, Kasich signed legislation boosting the number of calamity days to five from three. He wants a few more for the current school year.

Not too long after Kasich's statement on the issue, two state lawmakers, Reps. Tony Burkley, R-Payne, and Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, introduced legislation calling for four additional calamity days for the 2013-14 school year.

"Approximately one-third of the state's school districts have already used five or more calamity days, and the winter is far from over," Burkley said in a released statement. "One of my districts is approaching 10 calamity days."

Next year, state law shifts to require a certain number of hours of instruction rather than days, a move that will allow schools to add time to existing school days to make up for snow days and avoid adding sessions.

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