Pickerington Times-Sun

Pickerington School Board

District uses its final allotted calamity day

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Pickerington Local School District officials' decision to cancel school Tuesday, Jan. 28, marked the final calamity day the district can use this year without having to schedule a "makeup day."

At 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Rob Walker had already made the call to cancel school for the following day.

The decision came ahead of weather forecasts which predicted temperatures likely would be below zero, and as of Tuesday morning, those prognostications proved true.

The cancellation also meant the district had reached the limit of five calamity days Ohio schools are given before they must make up lost days.

During a Pickerington School Board meeting Monday night, Jan. 27, Walker said district officials already were considering when to schedule additional class days if additional days off are necessary.

"If we go beyond (Tuesday's) fifth day, we would be exceeding our allotment," Walker said. "We will bring back to the board at our next meeting some options."

Walker said scheduling class on Presidents Day, Feb. 17, was a possibility, but the district would first need to make sure the district's teacher contracts permitted them to work that day.

He said the district also would explore the possible use of "blizzard bags," which essentially are take-home lessons for students.

In the meantime, the district is looking to the Ohio General Assembly, which might soon provide an additional allotment of calamity days after a call from Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Monday, Kasich noted as many as one-third of Ohio schools might already be out of calamity days and said the state legislature should provide more permitted days off so student safety isn't jeopardized.

Prior to the governor's announcement, Ohio representatives Tony Burkley of Payne and Brian Hill of Zanesville, both Republicans, had filed a proposal with the House clerk's office to increase the number of calamity days school districts can use this year from five to nine days.

"In the past, the governor has provided relief," Walker said. "However, until that's released and approved by the legislature, we cannot plan on that."

Other matters

In other news from Monday's board meeting:

• Board President Jim Brink said he and other district officials recently met with representatives from the city of Pickerington and he believes the two sides have reached an agreement in principle regarding a proposed tax-increment financing plan to support an OhioHealth project to build a 150,000-square-foot medical campus near the intersection of state Route 256 and Refugee Road.

Brink said city officials have agreed they won't pursue additional TIFs -- agreements whereby developers pay for infrastructure improvements in lieu of property taxes to local school districts -- for the additional 60-some acres of land on the north side of Refugee Road near the OhioHealth site.

Additionally, Brink said, the city has agreed it will use one-fifth of the 1-percent income tax it will collect from OhioHealth employees to pay off debt for the planned widening of Refugee Road as soon as OhioHealth's "cumulative" payroll reaches $10 million.

Previously, Brink and other board members balked at a city plan to only divert a portion of income taxes to pay off the road project debt until OhioHealth's "annual" payroll hit the $10-million mark.

• Board officials also indicated they've reached a preliminary agreement with OhioHealth over a 10-year contract, which could be extended to 30 years, over services OhioHealth will provide to the district.

That proposed agreement includes clauses to provide free sports medicine services to district athletes and 2,000 square feet of educational space for district students at OhioHealth's Pickerington medical campus, which board members have generally supported.

However, at a Jan. 13 board meeting, board member Lisa Reade and others expressed concern over a clause in the proposed contract that would give OhioHealth exclusive advertising rights among hospitals, sports medicine offices and other healthcare providers at district athletic programs, or at athletic events or camps.

Monday, Walker said OhioHealth has agreed to work under the terms of a current contract it's had with the district the past two years, which thus far hasn't created issues with current advertisers with the district.

No official action was taken on the proposed TIF or the OhioHealth agreement, but board members said those items are expected to come back before the board at the Feb. 10 meeting.

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