Burkley (File photo)
Burkley (File photo)

VAN WERT —Ohio schools would receive up to four additional days off this year because of the winter season’s extreme weather with teachers having to report on two of those days, under a bill approved by the Ohio House on Wednesday.

Snow and frigid temperatures has led many districts across Ohio to exhaust their five allowable calamity days. Some have cancelled classes for 10 or more days.

According to Van Wert City Schools Superintendent Ken Amstutz, that district has called off classes 11 times as of Wednesday, and delayed school another 18 times. Three of those days were made up through use of “blizzard bags” with assignments to be completed by students at home. Under the current rules, Van Wert still has three days to make up. Those are scheduled for early June.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tony Burkley stated, “The severity of the weather and a seemingly unrelenting cold snap has caused many districts around the state to consume all of their five calamity days long before today. More than a third of the state’s school districts have already used up their days. This bill will provide the districts with needed flexibility.”

House Bill 416 would allow two additional calamity days, as well as allow for two additional professional development days for teachers that may count toward the required minimum number of school days. Schools are currently allotted five calamity days for the year, with school districts making up days beyond the fifth.

Co-sponsor Rep. Brian Hill, a Republican from Zanesville, some said schools in his eastern Ohio district have missed as many as 17 days to date.

“The safety and well-being of our children must be the top priority for our local school districts. House Bill 416 will alleviate some of the pressure on school superintendents when they are deciding whether or not to cancel school because they have already used their allotment of calamity days,” Rep. Hill said. “Concern about calamity days should never outweigh the safety of our children.”

The House approved the bill 80-16. It goes next to the Senate for consideration.

Gov. John Kasich has been among those advocating adding extra snow days on a one-time basis this year.

Opponents said schools aren’t doing enough to make up the lost days on the weekends or through longer school days. Rep. Michael Henne said giving children more days off will cause them to fall behind academically.

“It’s time for us to get our priorities in order,” said Henne, a Republican from Clayton in southwest Ohio. “We still have plenty of days where they can make up these days.”

This is the final school year that districts will be dealing with calamity days. Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, schools will be switching from a measurement of days to hours for minimum instruction time.