Ice and snow causes 700 school closings; Do Ohio schools need more snow days?

Lawmaker files bill calling for more snow days

CLEVELAND - Heavy early morning ice and snow caused more than 700 schools to trigger closings in the NewsChannel5 Closing Connection system .

Northeast Ohio school districts decided the weather conditions were too dangerous for their students and staff.

Because of the ice storm and major snow storms in December and January, some school districts have already used all three of the state allotted snow days, or calamity days.

In response, some districts have turned to delaying the start of their school days in an effort to cope with all of the winter weather.

Without additional snow days, some Ohio school districts may be faced with adding makeup days at the end of the school year if they are forced to close their buildings again this winter.

State Sen. Tim Grendell expressed his concern about the calamity day issue in Ohio. Grendell said he believes adding additional school days in June will cost some school districts up to $50,000 per day, which is a huge burden for a number of Northeast Ohio's financially stressed school systems.

Grendell is also concerned about student safety when it comes to issuing snow days.

"Superintendents are well-intended," Grendell said. "You don't want them up at five o'clock in the morning, when they have to make that decision, weighing in the back of their minds, that this is going to cost a lot of money, and make a decision that ends up being the wrong decision."

The number of Ohio calamity days were reduced from five to just thee under House Bill One, approved by former Gov. Ted Strickland. The measure was designed to keep Ohio students in the classroom additional days and improve their learning performance.

But Grendell believes three calamity days to deal with the Northeast Ohio winter are simply not enough, and has put some school districts in a tough position, balancing cost and safety.

"I've talked with numerous parents and superintendents who feel we need to go back to five calamity days," said Grendell.

Two week ago, NewsChannel5 was in Columbus as Grendell filed emergency legislation calling for a rollback to five calamity days for all Ohio school districts. The measure would also give credit to districts that keep students in the classroom longer than the five-and-a-half hour state daily minimum. School districts could bank the additional hours and use them to off-set additional calamity days if needed.

Grendell is hoping a vote on his bill will take place within the next two weeks, and if made into law, would take effect this school year.

Meanwhile, those against additional snow days believe Ohio students need more time in the classroom to keep them competitive with students from other states and other countries.

The 5 On Your Side Troubleshooter unit will continue to follow the impending vote on the Grendell bill in the coming weeks.

Give us your thoughts on the school snow days issue by leaving a comment below. Many of these comments will be forwarded to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who will have the final decision on whether the state will restore five calamity days to Ohio's 613 school districts.

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Winter Blast