State Representative Tony Burkley
State Representative Tony Burkley

I don’t think a single square inch of the state has been spared this brutal winter. About the time I heard the term “polar vortex” being thrown around, I had a feeling this might not be a typical winter.

While this has caused extra work for the crews tasked with clearing off the roads, it has also raised issues for school districts, many of which used up their allotted number of calamity days early in the year. As of February 7th, approximately one-third of the state’s school districts had used all five of their calamity days. Among the school districts that responded to a survey conducted by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the average number of days used was nine. Some school districts in the 82nd House District have used upwards of 10.

As the winter weather kept hitting Ohio and much of the Midwest, it became apparent something needed to be done to ensure students and faculty remained safe. I teamed up with Rep. Brian Hill of southeast Ohio to sponsor House Bill 416, which I believe would help to alleviate some of these problems.

The version we put forward called for two additional calamity days and allowed for two additional professional development days for teachers. The professional development days may count toward the required minimum number of school days. Details are still being ironed out between the House and Senate versions, but I am confident that the two chambers will find a compromise that works for Ohio’s students.

Other options are available as well. Many school districts have found alternative ways to make up their lost days, including the use of “blizzard bags,” a compilation of assignments and resources students can take home and complete to keep them from falling further behind in their studies.

The ideas put forward in House Bill 416 are a temporary fix and will only be potentially adopted for this school year. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, districts will switch from measuring in days to hours, which I believe will provide additional — and much-needed — flexibility for schools around the state.

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Rep. Burkley may be reached by calling (614) 644-5091, e-mailing Rep82@ohiohouse.gov or writing to State Representative Tony Burkley, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.