New Calamity Day Policy Allows for More Snow Days

With calamity days counted in hours, Ohio Department of Education policy enables 19 Shaker snow days

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New Calamity Day Policy Allows for More Snow Days

Students walk outside during a fire drill Feb. 11.

Students walk outside during a fire drill Feb. 11.

Zachary Nosanchuk

Students walk outside during a fire drill Feb. 11.

Zachary Nosanchuk

Zachary Nosanchuk

Students walk outside during a fire drill Feb. 11.

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Shaker students should rest assured that Mother Nature can keep dishing out cold weather without fear of the school district needing to add extra days to the end of the year, due to a new Ohio Department of Education policy.

Under the ODE’s previous calamity day policy, districts could close for five days before having to schedule makeup school days. Now, however, the ODE’s new policy allows Shaker Heights High School to cancel school 19 times, if need be. As Shaker has used five calamity days, it can call off 14 more days before the high school would need to add makeup days.

Instead of counting “calamity days,” the ODE allows districts to count unscheduled days off in terms of hours.

“The new state system permits districts to count instructional hours in a school year rather than days. The minimum number of hours varies by grade level. Not all districts have chosen to make the switch, but Shaker has,” district Director of Communications Peggy Caldwell said.

The ODE assigns each grade level a minimum number of instructional hours for a school year. If a school ends up calling more snow days than it expected and dips under the minimum amount, it must make up the number of hours that it went under.

Freshman Sarah Weeks agrees with the policy because of Shaker’s inconstant weather. “At Shaker our weather is bipolar, we can have snow in one minute and a bright springy weather in the next,” she said. “I think it’s better than the last policy we had.”

However, the ODE does not recommend adding days onto the end of school or during spring break. Instead, it suggests assigning “blizzard bags,” or homework assignments given to students on snow days through the internet.

Blizzard bags aren’t just for bad weather; schools can use them in a variety of emergencies, including disease epidemics, law enforcement issues or major damage to the school. Districts must submit plans to make up possible missed hours to the ODE for the equivalent of up to three school days.

“The state gave schools the option of using blizzard bags as an alternative to makeup calamity days. Shaker has not used them, for two reasons,” said Caldwell. “We have ample time built into this year’s calendar to avoid makeup days [and] it is logistically difficult, if not impossible for teachers to create blizzard bags that would be current, relevant and productive.”

Freshman Thomas Lang said that he would “definitely look forward to these possible new snow days.” He said that he would do the blizzard bags if offered, “because I like to keep up on work.”

The ODE requires schools to provide students in grades 9-12 at least 1,001 instructional hours. According to Caldwell, Shaker’s 2014-2015 calendar includes 1,155 instructional hours. As such,154 hours, or about 19 days, can be cancelled for calamities.

“Because we have a longer-than-average school day in Shaker, we have more than enough hours to avoid makeup days even though we have had five calamity days,” said Caldwell. “We have the equivalent of about 10 days left at the elementary level and about 15 at the secondary level. We hope we do not have to use them.”

 

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