Excused snow days could end
HEBRON – There’s a good possibility there will be no more excused calamity days after this year, said Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault.
HB1, the state’s last biennial budget, cut the number of excused calamity days from five to three effective with this school year. The budget also required the Superintendent of Public Instruction to study extending the school year with a report due to the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2010. One option would be to eliminate any excused calamity days, requiring any ‘snow days’ to be made up.
Gault said he’d know for certain once the General Assembly approves the budget for the new biennium beginning July 1, 2011. Board members briefly discussed options for make up days during their Nov. 10 meeting.
One option is making up snow days during spring break. At least one school board member supported the idea. Board President Joe Bowman, Jr. said he’d be happier without spring break. “I don’t know what purpose it serves,” he said.
Gault said this year’s spring break will not be affected in any way and the board is far from making any decisions regarding future spring breaks. “That’ll be something in discussion,” he said. In fact, Gault said if board members were to consider using spring break to make up calamity days, there would be options for public comment before a decision would be made.
Gault said it’s difficult to make up days academically because students’ hearts aren’t into learning when make up days are tacked onto the end of the year, and districts that make up days on Saturdays find that their attendance is less than half.
Gault believes many of the issues surrounding calamity days could be solved if the state altered its requirements for the time students must attend class. Currently, he said, students are required to spend at least 5.5 hours per day in the classroom for 178 days per year. This translates to 979 hours annually.
If foul weather or an equipment failure sends students home more than two hours early, students have lost an entire day that must be made up later, according to the state. If the requirements were based on hours, a regular school day could be extended by an hour or two to make up the difference. Calamity days in general could be made up piecemeal. Doing so would save the district money because it wouldn’t be forced to open its buildings for an entire extra day, said Gault. But, for now, it’s just Gault’s idea.
In other district news:
• If Ohio 91st House District Representative-elect Bill Hayes wasn’t aware of Lakewood and other districts’ financial issues, he is now. Gault said he, concerned citizen Bill Gulick, and Lakewood Levy Committee chair Holly Graham met with Hayes, who visited Lakewood Nov. 12. “I think it was a good meeting,” said Gault. He said the group discussed Ohio schools’
over reliance on property taxes and Lakewood’s financial challenges. HILL The group urged Hayes to voice these concerns to the other representatives.
• Gault met with a one-call system vendor to discuss the pros, cons, and purchasing options associated with the device. “I was really intrigued with this system,” he said. With one phone call, Gault said the system enables him to contact everyone in the district who registers for its service instantly. “How can we pay for it; how can we use it,” Gault asked the vendor. Gault said the systems usually announce emergencies, like school closures and delays, but they can also be used for general communication. Such a system would not be purchased through the district’s general fund. “We’re looking for sustainable funding that doesn’t cost the district money,” he said.
• Director of Pupil Services Arnie Ettenhofer said the administration recently met with the district’s special education teachers. “We were relaying to the special ed team the details of how AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress – a criterion of the state report card) is figured for students with disabilities in reading and math,” he said. They shared the federal targets and how they will increase annually until 2014 when they finally top off at 100 percent. “A lot of good, good things came out of that meeting,” said Ettenhofer.
• Gault said he still knows nothing more about the final fate of the 9.9 mills levy that has an unofficial five-vote lead. Licking County is still processing the roughly 800 county wide provisional ballots, which could obviously affect the levy’s current five-vote margin either way. That count won’t be complete until Nov. 23. If the official result (which includes the provisional ballots) is within one half of one percent pro or con, there will be a recount, which could delay certifying the results until Dec. 3.
Gault said within the next week he might know how many of the 800 provisional ballots are from the Lakewood School District, but that’s all. “That at least gives us some idea” he said.