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Manchester officials compromise on calamity days

4/3/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — The Manchester Local School District Board of Education agreed to amend a decision on how to make up calamity days that were used due to bad weather this winter during a special March 28 meeting.

Manchester schools were closed eight days due to extreme cold or snow January through March, according to Superintendent Sam Reynolds. State law allows schools to waive up to five calamity days, but after that, they must make up the next four missed days before they are allowed another four waiver days, following recent Ohio General Assembly legislation. So districts must make up days six through nine that are used.

“Never in my 44 years of experience have we encountered this,” said Reynolds. “It gives us pause in planning for the future.”

Reynolds said the district had an extra day of instruction not required by the state, so it will have to make up two calamity days. District officials had previously decided to use its contingency plan to add school days in June to make up any missed days due to bad weather.

According to Reynolds, the district’s board met with representatives from the Manchester Education Association March 28 to review the plan to make up the missed school days. Reynolds said teachers wanted to use the “blizzard bag” option — in which teachers make up a bag, real or virtual, of class assignments — instead of making up the two missed days in June. He added that after some discussion, a compromise was reached.

The board adopted the use of one blizzard bag and one extra day of school, which will be April 18, Good Friday, according to Reynolds. He added that district officials will “continue to honor religious beliefs” on that day.

“Instructional days are very important to us,” said Reynolds. “The amount of work in these blizzard bags is to be reasonable and meaningful.”

Reynolds said lessons and assignments in the blizzard bags must equal the amount of instructional time a student would receive on a normal day in each class.

According to the agreement, the assignments will be posted on the district’s website, www.panthercountry.org, Progress Book and online classrooms soon, and students will have about one week to complete each of the five assignments. Those without computer access will receive a paper copy, and time will be allotted before and after school, as well as during study hall and lunchtime, for them to complete the work.

Reynolds said he believes that “a change in culture” may be needed to help people accept students going to school on cold and snowy days in the future. He also said districts need to plan better in the future and possibly use spring break days.

The next board meeting is set for April 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Administration Building, located at 6075 Manchester Road.

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