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Redefining a calamity

Published: Sun, December 19, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

Redefining a calamity

Getting four to six inches of snow in Ohio during the winter isn’t surprising. It may be an inconvenience or a time consumer. But it certainly isn’t a calamity.

Except, of course, when schools close because of bad weather. Those days off are called calamity days.

Interestingly, on most calamity days, 99 percent of everyone else manages to get to work, some of them even before school opens.

A few years ago, Gov. Ted Strickland took action that could discourage school districts from closing prematurely. He reduced the number of calamity days the state would recognize from five to three, meaning that every day over three would have to be made up. As Strickland put it the other day, “The state pays for all of the calamity days. I believe when the state pays for a day of instruction for a student, the student should get a day of instruction. That’s just common sense to me.”

Kasich thinking differently

Apparently that argument doesn’t resonate with Ohio’s governor elect, John Kasich, who says he’s inclined to return to five calamity days. We hope he rethinks that.

We only have to look a short distance to the East to see that even three calamity days is extravagant. Pennsylvania has none.

We asked Sharon City School Superintendent John Sarandrea how he survives, and he replied that it is a matter of planning. Several potential make-up days are built into the school calendar. If classes have to be cancelled because of weather, the district can make up days by holding class on days that had been scheduled as off because of in-service days or by shortening the Easter vacation. It’s possible to make up four or five weather days and still complete 180 instructional days by the end of the first week of June.

School administrators, of course, must cancel classes if roads are impassable or temperatures so low as to present the danger of frostbite. Those are calamity conditions. And if any Ohio district suffers through more than three such days, teachers and students should make up for lost time.

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