As arctic winds and winter snow continue to blast central Ohio and close schools, several districts -- including Upper Arlington -- have used up their five allotted calamity days and are turning to "blizzard bags."
Karen Truett, Upper Arlington's director of communications, said the blizzard bag option is a plan that allows schools to go beyond the five calamity days without adding an extra day to the school year.
"Blizzard bags allow schools to provide take-home or online lessons in order to earn credit for a day of school when weather or another type of calamity, such as a power outage, prevent us from holding classes," she said. "Districts can use up to three blizzard bags in a year."
She said the Upper Arlington Board of Education approved a blizzard bag plan Feb. 3 and filed it with the Ohio Department of Education.
"Generally, the Ohio Department of Education has required schools to submit their plans and get approved prior to the school year beginning, but because weather has been so severe, they opened it up again mid-year," she said.
Truett said the district has used one of its three blizzard bag calamity days.
"If more than eight calamity days are necessary, districts will have to add makeup days to the school calendar," she said. "That could change, though, if the legislature passes a bill providing additional calamity days for districts this year."
Legislation was recently approved by the Ohio House Education Committee to give Ohio schools four extra calamity days this year. The bill was scheduled for a vote Feb. 12 by the full Ohio House of Representatives, then it will go to the Ohio Senate.
In the meantime, most local districts are out of calamity days and must decide whether to take the blizzard bag option or add an extra school day or two.
Reynoldsburg City Schools decided to require students to attend school Feb. 17, on Presidents Day.
Truett said if Upper Arlington is forced to go beyond the three blizzard bag days, then two teacher grading days, April 7 and June 5, will be makeup days. Anything beyond those days will be added to the end of the school year, unless the legislature approves the extra calamity days.
"To join the blizzard bag program, we needed a document of support from our teachers association and board approval," Truett said. "The teachers were fantastic and jumped at the chance to help. Everyone is weary of the disruptions to the flow of learning for kids."
Superintendent Paul Imhoff said the blizzard bag option allows teachers to prepare assignments that can be delivered electronically on calamity days. The students then have several days to complete the assignments. He said students without Internet access could pick up the assignments once they return to school.
He said next year's change to requiring districts to hold class for a certain number of hours instead of days will give the schools more flexibility.
"Because our school day is significantly longer than the state minimum, this may allow our district greater flexibility with calamity days in the future," he said in a letter to parents explaining blizzard bags.