School districts working on plans to make up snow days

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 21, 2010

It’s a common scenario in the winter: Students and teachers wake up early for the start of a school day only to find snow and ice on the ground and that classes have been canceled for the day.

While many students may be happy for the time off in the cold, they could end up making up for it during spring break.

The state of Ohio has five snow days built into school schedules. When those days are surpassed, the district has to make them up.

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Rock Hill students can expect to be in school for all or most of what was planned to be spring break.

Rock Hill Elementary School has missed 10 days due to snow and the middle and high schools have missed nine.

The difference in the number is because on one occasion, high school and middle school students were already in class when a snowstorm hit, and the decision was made not to run elementary school buses, Superintendent Wes Hairston said.

“Most of the time will be made up on spring break,” Hairston said.

After they reach a certain number of snow days missed, districts have the option of adding 30 minutes to the end of each school day to make up the lost time.

As a part of Ohio’s education reform bill, the school districts have five snow days this year and three next year. In two years, there will be no snow days built into the schedule.

“I believe that the reasoning is that they felt that students are getting shorted on education due to the weather,” said Ironton City Schools superintendent Dean Nance of the new rule. “So (in two years) every day you miss you have to make up.”

So far, Ironton schools will not have to make up any school days. The district has missed four days.

“But if we miss two more days then we have to start making them up every day that we miss,” Nance said. And if the district does have snow days to make up, it will likely schedule them for Spring break, he said.

The new rules will likely have a bigger effect on rural school districts where buses travel on hills where there could be accidents, Nance said.

The Ironton school district covers 5 square miles, most of which are flat, Nance said. The only hills that the bus drivers have to contend with are Indian Hills and Zenith Heights area.

“I will not have school if I think that we are putting children at risk,” he said. “I do make that decision but that decision isn’t made without me driving the roads and talking with the transportation director.”

Besides students missing parts or all of their vacation, snow days can also make it difficult teachers to prepare for standardized testing in the spring.

Pending board approval, Symmes Valley Schools plan to make up four days over Spring break and one at the end of the year, Superintendent Jeff Saunders said. The students will still be off for Good Friday but will have class for the rest of the week.

Symmes Valley High School will have testing before spring break, which means it will lose time it could have devoted to preparing for the test.

“We’ve been very concerned about the days we’ve missed,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do other than just to continue what we’re doing.”

The school has an intervention program built into each class that’s designed to prepare them for the test.

Nance said he’s confident that the district will have an edge on the test because they haven’t missed many days.

“It’s interesting that the state gives you a grade based on test scores and that date doesn’t change and it’s in March,” he said.

Rock Hill has an after school intervention program in place.

“We think we have a game plan that is going to work,” Hairston said, referring to preparing for the standardized test.

Comparing this winter to previous ones, Saunders said this season has been worse.

“It’s a lot worse,” he said. “This is the worst winter we’ve had as far as trying to get into school in a while.”

Chesapeake superintendent Scott Howard was not available for comment. Messages left for Dawson-Bryant Superintendent Dennis DeCamp, Fairland Superintendent Jerry McConnell, and South Point Superintendent Ken Cook were not returned.