Schools are a step closer to getting forgiveness for additional days missed due to snow and cold this winter. The Ohio House voted 80-16 on Wednesday to increase the number of calamity days for schools from five to seven. Teachers will be in the classroom for two additional in-service days. That means that students who have missed nine days this year won't need to make any days up.
"Concern about calamity days should never outweigh the safety of our children," said Rep. Brian Hill, a Zanesville Republican.
An original version of the bill had given schools four additional calamity days, but it was amended just before getting a vote in the House. The move helped get support from some Republicans who opposed it because they didn't like paying teachers for nine days they did not work.
In addition to the extra days off, the bill allows schools to make up time by adding a half-hour to the school day this year.
Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican from Napoleon, said it costs the state about $115 million a day to operate schools.
"You're supporting the spending of $460 million with no academic return for the kids," he said, noting that the five calamity days already set aside for schools cost taxpayers another $575 million.
Districts wouldn't be required to take the additional calamity days and still have the option of making up the days if they want.
Another Republican, Rep. Michael Henne, of Clayton, was upset that so much effort seems to be made to make up missed sporting events.
"We made up most of those sporting events because that's important, but the education of our children is not," he said.
Henne argues that districts should have used Presidents Day, spring break, and Saturdays to make up missed days.
The bill now moves to the Senate, but it won't get an easy pass there. Many Republicans, including Senate President Keith Faber, prefer that districts use scheduled make-up days before additional calamity days are forgiven.
School calendars designate five makeup days at the beginning of each year, in case they use more than their five calamity days.
Many districts around Ohio have used new blizzard bags this year. That option gives students schoolwork to complete at home. That option can be used to make up three days.