Schools eye axing breaks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

Unless you're a true snow bunny, chances are you are finding the weather outside a bit frightful.

When the children find out what snow days are doing to the school calendar, they may find it less-than-delightful, too. Some districts will be making up lost days by scheduling classes during spring break. Others are canceling their planned Presidents' Day weekend and having class this Friday and next Monday.

Everyone agrees that it has been a while since the school calendar underwent such change due to snowfall.

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State law requires schools to be open for at least 182 days each school year, with a maximum of five days called off for ''public calamity'' -- usually snow or ice.

A handful of school districts build in a cushion by scheduling more than 182 days. But for most districts, any more than five days of canceled school means the district must make up days later in the year.

South Point schools have missed seven days due to snow and one day in September due to a water problem. Subtracting the five calamity days the state allows each school years, South Point students will have to make up three days.

Superintendent Ken Cook said students will attend class this Friday and next Monday. They would have had these days off as Presidents' Day weekend. The other of the three days will be made up by taking one day away from the district's spring break, which is the week after Easter, April 21-25.

Cook said it has been several years since his district canceled so many days of school due to snow.

"What I look at, I know Steve (Kingery, Superinten-dent of Ironton City Schools) has had to shut down because of snow this year, and that's in town. And Ashland (Ky.), they've shut down a couple of times, too. If those two shut down, you know you've got problems. That's one way we gauge it."

Ironton City Schools have canceled class six days this school year because of slick roads.

Nearby, Dawson-Bryant schools are in the same situation, having missed seven days already. The district will have to make up two of those days.

"We went ahead and talked to the (Dawson-Bryant Education) Association last week about making up those days," Dawson-Bryant Super-intendent James Payne said. "We talked about (having classes) Friday and Monday. Rather than than disturb those days, we decided to making it up over spring break."

Dawson-Bryant's spring break is set for the week after Easter.

Payne said the greatest concern in canceling classes when bad weather hits is the safety of the children, parents, faculty and staff. He praised the work of his transportation officials and those in other districts who go out and inspect the conditions of the roads and make recommendations whether to cancel class.

"They do an outstanding job," Payne said. "They're unsung heroes."

Fairland Schools started out at a disadvantage, missing five days at the beginning of the year due to a delay in completion of the construction of its new facilities, and one day due to a bomb threat during a workers' strike. That district has had to cancel class six days because of snow.

Fairland officials have had to make up a total of seven days, since the five state-approved calamity days will take care of all but one snow day. Superintendent Jerry McConnell said students went to class on election day in November to make up one of the days missed earlier in the year. Two days will be made up by going to school over the scheduled Presidents' Day weekend this Friday and next Monday, and four more days will be made up by taking days off the scheduled spring break.

"We will be off for Good Friday," McConnell said. "This is important to us. If we miss any more school because of snow, we still have one day of spring break, and we may have to extend the school year past Memorial Day."

Fairland's original calendar called for dismissal of classes on May 23.

Like Payne, McConnell said the overriding concern in canceling classes due to inclement weather is the well-being of the community.

"It's an issue of safety," McConnell said. "When we cancel classes, the most important part is not making up snow days, but what is the safest decision for students, parents, faculty and staff."


Fairland, Symmes Valley students started classes late this school year because of construction delays. Superintendent Tom Ben said between the two weeks of construction delays at the start of the school year and inclement weather, the district has had to make up 11 lost days. Symmes Valley has been out of class six days due to bad weather, five of those are covered by calamity days.

Ben said those days are being made up in various ways throughout the calendar, and this year students will forego spring break. The rest of the

days will be made up at the end of the year.

Rock Hill School Super-intendent Lloyd Evans said his elementary school students have missed eight days, high school students seven.

"At the present time we plan to make it up over the spring break," Evans said."I think here in Southeastern Ohio, everyone is over five days."

Like Payne, Evans said when his district's calendar is approved each year, a note is given to parents, stating

spring break may be used to make up snow days, if necessary, and acts as the five built-in make-up days the state requires each district to have. Evans said if students miss more than 10 days due to inclement weather, days could be added at the end of the school year, unless the state approves additional calamity days.

Across Ohio, the issue of snow days has become a much-discussed subject. In other areas, school officials are worried they may have to extend the school year because bad weather has forced them to cancel classes so many times.

''This year doesn't look good,'' Dennis Leone, superintendent of Chillicothe city schools, told The Associated Press Tuesday. ''I've been a superintendent in Ohio for 22 years, and it's been awhile since we've had this much snow this early in the season.''

Chillicothe has already used four of the five snow days the state allows without requiring schools to make up the time.

Other school districts are worse off.

The Waverly school district has used 10 snow days. Students there will be required to make up the time by going to school on Presidents Day, three days of spring break in April and on May 30, the day after the last scheduled day of school.

Fairfield Union schools, southeast of Columbus, have used five snow days and plan to have classes on Presidents Day even though they haven't exceeded the limit. They want a cushion to protect against having to extend the school year, and proficiency tests are scheduled in March.

''We have lost instruction time, and we want to make up any instruction time we can,'' Superintendent Clark Davis said.

Public schools in Poland near Youngstown have used four snow days and will extend the school year if they go over five. The schools haven't exceeded the limit since the 1993-94 school year, when they had seven snow days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.