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OHIO SCHOOLS Senate extends days for calamity



Published: Fri, June 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The action came after this spring's outbreak of meningococcal diseasein the Mahoning Valley.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Senate passed a bill that would allow school districts to receive state funding that exceeded their allotted number of calamity days because of the recent meningococcal disease outbreak.

Senators approved the bill 32-0 Wednesday, continuing the measure's quick journey through the state Legislature.

The legislation, sponsored in the House by state Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, R-3rd, was introduced earlier this month and passed the House on June 13.

The bill allows school districts affected by the recent outbreak to exceed the five-day, calamity-day limit.

Under state law, schools must be in session a minimum of 182 days. Schools may close for up to five days for things such as disease epidemics and hazardous weather without penalty.

Any days past the five calamity days must be made up or the school district won't receive state funding the following school year.

Cause for concern: Two West Branch High School students died in late May after contracting meningococcemia, the blood infection caused by a strain of the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.

A third student from the Marlington school district survived.

West Branch schools in Mahoning County were three days over the five-day calamity-day limit -- one day because of weather and seven related to the outbreak.

Marlington schools were one day over the five-day limit -- three days related to weather and three days related to the outbreak.

United schools in Columbiana County also exceeded the limit by three days.

Aid lost: Without the bill, if the school districts didn't make up the missed days, the three districts combined would have foregone a total of nearly $25 million in state aid, the bill analysis said.

Blasdel said he expects Gov. Bob Taft to sign the legislation. The bill would become effective on the governor's signature.

In a related matter, there is still a $100,000 debt owed to Salem Community Hospital for vaccinations given to people at risk during the outbreak.

Sen. Greg DiDonato of Dennison, D-30th, has written a letter to the governor urging him to use state emergency funds to help defer the cost the hospital incurred during the emergency.

The governor has yet to respond, says a DiDonato press release.




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