Extreme cold, which moved into central Ohio in early January, forced Pickerington schools to close for two days and left the district with two remaining calamity days.
Pickerington Local School District officials canceled school Jan. 6 and 7 because of subzero temperatures and wind chills which National Weather Service officials said were the result of a cold air mass that broke off from its typical circular movement around the Earth's pole and moved south through Canada and much of the Midwest and eastern portions of the U.S.
The latest school closures brought the district's total number of calamity days to three for the 2013-14, as of Jan. 14.
Under current Ohio Department of Education requirements, Ohio schools are permitted to use five calamity days.
Those which exceed five days must make up those additional days of instruction.
"We're currently sitting at three calamity days (used)," Pickerington Assistant Superintendent Bob Blackburn said last week.
Next year, the state will eliminate calamity days and move to an hour-based schedule
Under new requirements for 2014-15, Ohio public schools for grades 7-12 must be open for a minimum of 1,001 hours of instruction.
Schools serving students in grades K-6 must be open at least 910 hours of instruction.
Those which fall below the minimum number of hours because of closures for issues such as hazardous weather, law enforcement emergencies, disease epidemic, damage to school buildings or inoperable equipment will be required to extend their school year.
Also beginning with the 2014-15 school year, districts will be required to submit plans to the ODE explaining how they will make up missed hours rather than days.
According to the ODE's website, districts must provide plans to make up hours equivalent to three scheduled days.
Although it's a shift in policy, Blackburn said the move from calamity days to an hours-based schedule shouldn't present significant challenges for Pickerington.
He said districts that typically schedule only the minimum number of days required under the current system might struggle under the hour-based schedule, but Pickerington already schedules approximately 1,185 hours of instruction each year.
"We're currently working on putting together a calendar for the school board," he said. "We're already well above the minimum hours required.
"If we put in the same amount of days we have in the past, we're going to be safe."