Canal Winchester schools have run out of "snow days," but may not have to make up any additional days if the Ohio General Assembly approves Gov. John Kasich's proposal to allow districts more calamity days or if students complete work in approved "blizzard bags."
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the last penalty-free snow day for the district, the Canal Winchester Board of Education held a special meeting to approve an alternative way to make up calamity days.
The Ohio Department of Education usually requires school districts to apply for alternative make-up plans by Aug. 1, but because of the unusually severe weather, Superintendent Jim Sotlar said the ODE has said districts may approve an online learning plan for students that would allow them to make up three days missed beyond the five allotted.
"It gives kids opportunities to do classroom lessons during that time," Sotlar said. "It's called 'blizzard bags' because the thought was that kids that do not have access to computers or the Internet at home will have a paper copy that will be sent home when they come back to school."
The plan calls for teachers to have three days of updated lessons or homework that equal or exceed the amount of time that students would spend in the classroom.
Sotlar said the lessons would be posted on the district's web portal or website by noon of the day school is cancelled and would be updated as students progress in the school year.
Students who do not have computers or Internet access would be handed their "blizzard bags" when they return to school from the calamity day.
If there is enough advance notice of severe weather, Sotlar said students could be given the bags the day before classes are likely to be cancelled.
Students will have up to two weeks to complete the lessons; if they miss the deadline, they could receive an incomplete or failing grade.
As of press time, it was too soon to tell whether or not Canal Winchester students will have to use the "blizzard bags" or if the Ohio General Assembly would grant additional calamity days, but Sotlar said the district wanted to be ready just in case.
Next year, districts may not face this issue because the state will require students to complete a specified number of hours in the classroom instead of days in school. Two-hour delays, which currently do not have an impact on the allotted calamity days would count against the districts next year.
Canal Winchester students already exceed the number of hours that will be required next school year.
"If you would put the hours into days, we would have about 14 or 15 calamity days to use," Sotlar said.
Also at the special meeting, the board approved a resolution to proceed with a five-year, $5.83-million substitute emergency renewal school levy on the May 6 ballot.
The board approved a similar resolution Jan. 13, but there was an error in the Franklin County Auditor's certificate for the taxable millage rates.
According to district Treasurer Joyce Boyer, the correct figures show the levy will cost $433.34 per $100,000 of property value.