Calamity days, capital spending

There will never be consensus when it comes to finding the right number of calamity days for Ohio schools, especially this year. Many districts have long surpassed the allowable five calamity days because of snowy weather and cold temperatures, and are now eagerly awaiting a bailout from Ohio legislators.
But some districts would still have a week or more of school days to make up even if lawmakers were to add to the number of calamity days.
Through last Friday, 415 school districts had reported to the Buckeye Association of School Administrators that they had missed nine school days, on average. Some have missed 13 or 14.
Everyone, it seems, has a different idea about what to do.
Under a bill passed by the House, students would be granted an additional four days off without being required to make them up, while teachers would get two additional calamity days and two in-service training days. (An earlier House bill allowed both teachers and students four days off in addition to the current five days granted.)
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are considering another approach.
Their bill would require schools to make up five days beyond the five calamity days before additional missed days are allowed. It would allow districts to make up days by expanding the school day by half-hour increments, or by scheduling make-up days, including Saturdays.
In addition, schools could apply to use “blizzard bags,” take-home work that can be used to make up three days.
With either proposal, someone is bound to be unhappy.
The best option would be to stand pat on five free days, and give district boards the authority to work out the details to make up for lost time beyond that.
Findlay Schools Superintendent Dean Wittwer said recently he would prefer to extend school days by 30 minutes. That seems reasonable.
Wittwer believes it’s important for students to be in the classroom. We agree. Districts would find creative ways to meet the state’s requirement that students be in school at least 175 days. Districts could meet the minimum by extending the school day, convening classes on holidays, on Saturdays, or opening the doors in June.
Regardless, schools need an answer soon so they can start making plans. Spring is still a month away and who’s to say even more cancellations aren’t ahead?

It may have been routine, but we were glad to see Findlay City Council appropriate funds this week to kick-start this year’s capital improvement projects. There is, it seems, much to do to address our infrastructure and other needs.
In January, officials proposed a lengthy list calling for nearly $4 million more in capital spending than last year. City income tax money, grants, license fees, and water and sewage revenue will help pay the bills.
Ahead are numerous projects such as waterline replacements, intersection upgrades and street repaving. Others projects, such as the proposed cleaning of the Dalzell Ditch, upgrades at Riverside Pool, and downtown curb and parking enhancements, will require council discussion before they move forward.
In the first wave, council approved $3.2 million for equipment and construction projects, plus seed money for other projects. Administrators will have to return for more money later this year once project bids and costs are calculated.
Appropriations are being conducted a bit differently this year. In the past, a lump sum would usually be requested for a specific project. But sometimes a project’s actual cost would come in well under estimates, or occasionally something would happen where a project could not be started.
But because money had been appropriated, it would be tied until up until the end of the year and could not be utilized for other needs.
The “pay-as-we-go” system should allow for more flexibility in addressing a project list which could very well change as the year unfolds.


About the Author