Ohio OKs more snow days for schools

by MARC KOVAC | RPC CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

COLUMBUS -- As northern Ohio communities were issuing additional winter weather advisories, state lawmakers were taking final action on legislation to provide a few extra snow days for schools contending with snow, ice and frigid temperatures.

The Ohio House and Senate both gave their approvals Wednesday to a compromise plan that will provide four additional calamity days, once districts have used their initial five already outlined in state law and four contingency days they planned at the start of the school year.

The final votes were 87-5 in the House and 32-0 in the Senate, and the bill heads to Gov. John Kasich for his consideration.

The provisions will take effect as soon as the governor signs it, thanks to an emergency clause added by lawmakers.

The action ended weeks of back and forth between the House and Senate, after Republicans in the two chambers balked at different calamity day proposals.

The House passed legislation allowing up to four additional days off for students and two for teachers, with two additional professional development days.

The Senate version called for four extra snow days for students, once districts completed four contingency days outlined in their school year plans.

Under the compromised version sent to the governor, schools would be allowed four additional calamity days, once they make up four contingency days.

The latter could mean scheduling makeup days on holidays or Saturdays, sending "blizzard bags" home with students so they can complete lessons outside of school or adding time onto planned school days.

Schools would be allowed to make up days by adding half-hour increments to scheduled sessions, and seniors would be excused from extra days planned after graduation ceremonies.

Lawmakers removed language requiring additional in-service training days for teachers.

Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), who served on the conference committee, called the compromise legislation "a thoughtful approach that we arrived to on a bipartisan basis. … It's a good approach."

Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) jokingly added, "Mr. Speaker, it's snowing outside. We need to pass this immediately."

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

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