Vote to increase snow days for schools delayed

by MARC KOVAC | RPC CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House postponed a vote on legislation to increase the number of snow days allowed during the current school year after Republicans in the chamber split on the wisdom of the move.

HB 416, which proposes allowing up to four additional calamity days, was "informally passed," a procedural maneuver that delayed final action, and the bill is scheduled to be taken up again at the next voting session, scheduled for Wednesday.

"There was a difference of opinion within the caucus," House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) told reporters afterward. "We have a number of people who feel that we ought not to be in a situation in which the school is not in charge of what they want to do."

Under current law, districts are allowed up to five calamity days, enabling them to close schools during wintery weather and other emergencies without having to make them up at the end of the school year.

Schools also can arrange online coursework or send "blizzard bags" with students so they can complete lessons at home.

Many districts statewide have closed their doors for more than the five days allowed, due to wintery weather. Gov. John Kasich is among proponents of extending the number of calamity days; he called on lawmakers last month to move legislation accomplishing that task.

The House Education Committee signed off on HB 416 late last month.

But Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster), who serves as chairman of that panel, said some members don't like the idea of allowing more days away from school with nothing required in return -- "no education for children and a lot more money being spent for educating children that you're not educating," he said.

"… We didn't want to pass a bill that made a bunch of people unhappy, and we weren't sure of the outcome," Stebelton said.

He said he expected a compromise to be in place to move the bill next week that would allow districts to plan makeup days on Saturdays or extending school days in half-hour or hour increments to make up for missed sessions, in addition to the adding snow days.

Kovac is the Dix capital bureau chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

 

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