Tuesday, March 4, 2014

State Representative Buchy Discusses School Calamity Days

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

While winters in Ohio often bring plentiful cold and snow, this year’s winter has been especially brutal. Heavy snowfalls and frigid temperatures have made this winter one of the harshest in recent memory. While we have all been affected by the weather, schools in particular have faced challenges during this winter season.

Treacherous conditions caused by ice-covered roadways, blowing snow and extreme wind chills have caused many school districts to exceed their allotted number of calamity days for the 2013-2014 school year. Schools all across the state have rightfully put student safety first and cancelled school when conditions were unsafe.

I am a believer in the power of knowledge and education, but I firmly believe that student safety should be a high priority at every school. It is never ideal to miss a day of in-class instruction, but sometimes this sacrifice simply has to be made in order to keep students and teachers safe.

Governor Kasich also holds this belief, and has called for the addition of extra calamity days to the 2013-2014 school year. The addition of these days will give districts all across Ohio the ability to call off school if conditions are hazardous, without worrying about the possibility of being forced to make up these days at the end of the school year or during previously scheduled recesses.

I support the addition of extra calamity days. However, a day off of school should not result in a day completely void of learning for students. For this reason, I helped with the passage of legislation that allows schools to supplement their existing calamity days with the addition of three E-Days, or “Blizzard Bag” Days.

The E-Day Program was first implemented at Mississinawa Valley Schools, right here in western Ohio. The program allows schools to post online lessons to their website or web portal for students to access during a day off of school. For school districts with limited connectivity, there is an alternative: Blizzard Bags. At schools with a Blizzard Bag program, teachers prepare materials for a lesson that students can take home and complete in the event of a school closure. Both programs provide schools the option to further the learning that is occurring in the classroom, even if school must be closed due to weather.

The program has proven to be a huge success and has provided a blueprint for schools across Ohio. Currently, around 150 school districts have implemented an E-Day or Blizzard Bag program, and that number is growing.

When winter weather hits, school administrators should make the decision to cancel school if conditions present a danger to students. However, with the E-Day and Blizzard Bag programs, these days have proven to be more than simply a day off.

Please stay in touch and provide your input on the issues of the day by taking my legislative survey at tinyurl.com/buchymarch2014

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