The Groveport Madison Board of Education agreed unanimously Feb. 12 to allow students to use online assignments to make up classroom days lost to bad winter weather, but not before some members raised concerns about how useful the so-called "blizzard bags" are.
Groveport schools have been closed seven days so far this year, two more than the five calamity days that are currently allowed.
Gov. John Kasich has asked the Ohio General Assembly to allow districts additional calamity days, but that legislation has not yet made it through both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.
Now that the board has approved the use of "blizzard bags," the Groveport Madison Local Education Association will submit it to the state for final approval. That must be done by Feb. 28 in order for the program to be instituted during this current school year.
"Blizzard bags" are assignments delivered online to students as a supplement to the curriculum they would otherwise have completed had they been in school.
Students without home access to the Internet will be provided the additional assignments in person when they return to school. Students then have two weeks to complete the assignments.
"I don't get what kind of work you'll give the kids and how a teacher is going to provide that instruction, especially to younger students who don't have study hours," board member Nancy Gillespie said. "It sounds like it will trade one loss of instructional time for another."
Board member Libby Gray said she understood Gillespie's concern, but thought the assignments would be more like those a student would have to complete following a sick day.
Superintendent Bruce Hoover said teachers had also expressed a similar concern, but believed they could work through it.
"If House Bill 412 passes, that will give us four additional calamity days back and that's still under discussion," he said. "Under our current contract, the first five days over the five the state allows are tacked on to the end of the school year in June."
After that, he said, make-up days would come out of spring break.
"Everyone is concerned about getting the assignments back in because there has to be at least a 50-percent turn-in for the blizzard bag program to count for a calamity day," Hoover said.
He noted that regardless of whether students turn in the additional assignments from the blizzard bag, they do count toward their overall course grade.
Hoover said that besides working on the assignments at home, students could potentially use study hall hours as well.
Board member Nathan Slonaker said he hopes one indirect benefit of the blizzard bag program will be to get teachers more comfortable with online lessons, something the schools will do more of with blended learning programming.