Schools reconsider ‘blizzard bags’
Kasich backs bill to add calamity days
By William Laney firstname.lastname@example.org
LIMA — Winter has interfered with kids going to school in a big way this season, and school districts are considering unusual make-up methods.
Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman scheduled a board meeting for 4:30 p.m. Friday to explain the “blizzard bags” concept to the district’s board members and discuss make-up days.
A “blizzard bag” is an online set of assignments. For students without internet access, teachers would distribute the missed work on the first day back in school and the students are given time to finish. This counts toward three future calamity days.
“We have already gotten some samples, and we have been emailing other administrators about it,” Ackerman said. “I think it is important for students to work on educational materials when they are at home, especially since it has been a number of days.”
Lima schools has missed 12 school days due to inclement weather. The district is seven days beyond the state limit of five. The school calendar and union contracts stipulate that the days be made up at the end of the school year.
Ackerman explained the state allows longer school days or Saturday school. They also can use three-hour delays with an extra hour added at the end of the day.
In Elida, school board members met Wednesday to adopt a “blizzard bags” policy. Elida Superintendent Don Diglia favors the program.
“I see it as a way to provide some additional instruction via these blizzard bags prior to state testing,” Diglia said. “The testing dates are set, and if we have additional calamity days we will have to make them up at the end of the year. I just feel instruction to prepare for the tests is better if it occurs prior to the test.”
Elida has canceled classes 10 times for weather.
Diglia also sees an additional benefit to the program.
“An indirect benefit is it provides motivation to teachers to do more technology integration into their classroom and classwork,” Diglia said. “As we do these things more often, they become more confident at looking at the blended learning process.”
Wapakoneta schools Superintendent Keith Horner said he has no intention of presenting “blizzard bags” to his board members for adoption.
“Through our conversations at this time, it would require a great deal of work to make them have value,” Horner said. “When I talk to people who have done it, you really do need to have everybody fully committed to make it have value. The teachers need to agree that they are going to make this valuable work that is very interactive between the teacher and the student and not just homework.”
Horner also said they are discussing trying to hold classes prior to the state testing, perhaps on President’s Day or around spring break.
“I truly believe the teacher in front of the kids is the best instructional model,” Horner said, “and we lose a little bit when we don’t have that.”
Area school districts should receive some relief if a bill proposed last week by state Reps. Tony Burkley, R-Payne, and Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, continues to gain traction with legislators. Burkley and Hill proposed allowing for four additional calamity days, bringing the total number to nine days for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year. A Senate version seeks an extra three days.
Burkley said it is unlikely more days will be added.
“There comes a point where you get concerned about in-class exposure for the kids,” Burkley, who testified Wednesday before the Education Committee on the matter, told The Lima News. “In my opinion, I don’t want to go too far out and have an impact on end-of-the-year testing. … We have to develop a balance there between what is appropriate and what the schools can work with and still get things accomplished.”
The proposed legislation received a boost when Gov. John Kasich urged the General Assembly and the Ohio Department of Education to work together increasing the number of calamity days this year.
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