While school districts across Ohio wait to see if the Statehouse will give them a few extra calamity days this year, many -- including Marysville -- have already made plans to make up lost time.
Currently, state law gives school districts five calamity days before they have to add days to the school year. But two polar vortexes have caused Marysville and other central Ohio districts to use all of those days and then some. Superintendent Diane Mankins said her district has used nine days and had six delays so far this winter.
Last week, the House Education Committee voted to add another four calamity days to the current school year. The full House is expected to vote on the measure after its session begins next week.
In the meantime, Marysville has scheduled two makeup days in the next two months and created a contingency plan in the event that more bad weather strikes.
The school board held a special meeting Thursday, Jan. 30, to approve an online calamity day makeup plan.
An email sent to parents explains that effective Monday, Feb. 3, the district will participate in the Ohio Department of Education's "blizzard backpacks" program. Teachers will post homework assignments online the morning of the next cancelled school day.
Students will have two weeks to complete the assignments, which can be accessed through a link on the district website at marysville. k12.oh.us. Students without Internet access can work with teachers to finish the assignments online at school or in a paper format.
Districts can only make up three calamity days through the blizzard backpacks program.
To account for days already missed, students will have to report to school on two previously scheduled days off: Feb. 17, which is Presidents Day; and March 17, which had been a scheduled in-service day. The district also plans to cancel a late start scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 5, and make it a regular school day.
Mankins said administrators will stick with these plans for now, until the Statehouse makes a decision about additional calamity days.
She said deciding whether to cancel school on a given day depends on the situation.
"In the case of snow, we have a team of drivers that goes out starting at 4 a.m. and drives the road in town and in the county. We talk to local authorities and other school districts," she said. "Additionally, we consider what the radar is projecting in the upcoming hours. All of that information informs our decision. When we have extreme wind chills, we consider the temperature, wind chill, wind gusts, current snow totals and predicted forecasts."
Next school year, an hours-based approach will change the way districts make up instructional time lost to bad weather and other closures. The move is part of the state's shift to Common Core standards. School districts will be required to count calamity hours instead of days.
According to the ODE, beginning with the 2014-15 school year, schools must meet a minimum instructional time based on grade level, excluding meals and extracurricular activities: 455 hours for half-day kindergarten; 910 hours for full-day kindergarten through sixth grade; and 1,001 hours for grades 7-12.
"Schools may schedule 'excess' hours above the minimum number. Hours missed above the minimum do not have to be made up. However, if a school closes enough that it will fall below the minimum number of hours, the school must extend its scheduled year," ODE's website states.
Mankins said it's just a different way to count time.
"It will not impact our decision making. We will continue to put safety first and follow our protocols for making these decisions," she said. "Student safety will continue to be at the forefront of our decision making."
Marysville schools will cancel a late start planned Wednesday, Feb. 5, and make it a regular school day.