Blizzard bags aiding weather-worn schools

CADIZ – A particularly brutal winter has forced local schools to close their doors for more days than the state allots yearly, and the Harrison Hills School District is dealing with the issue by using blizzard bags.

The term refers to schoolwork that is accessed online and printed. Students complete their work at home and turn it in when school resumes. The blizzard bags count as a day in school, so students and staff will not have to make the days up later.

“We’ve been doing this for two years now. For days six, seven, and eight, students will be required to complete the online lessons,” Superintendent Dana Snider said.

The blizzard bag lessons include reviews, practice sheets for younger students, and reading and essay assignments for English classes, according to Snider. All the lessons follow course standards. Ideally, students are expected to complete their work on the snow day, but those without access to a computer or Internet will be allotted time for the assignments.

Blizzard bags are part of House Bill 153, which was signed into law by Gov. Kasich in 2011. Ohio law allows school districts to have five calamity days. The blizzard bag provision allows schools to make up three calamity days. Anything more than that must be added as a traditional make-up day.

Snider says after the school district uses blizzard bag days, they will begin make-up days on Presidents’ Day (Feb. 17).

John Hall, superintendent of Switzerland of Ohio schools, says the board of education will discuss the issue of missed school days at the Feb. 20 meeting. The board will consider blizzard bags among other options.

Due to the inclement weather this season, on Monday Gov. Kasich implored the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio General Assembly to create legislation for a one-time increase in calamity days.

In the coming 2014-2015 school year, schools will track time differently thanks to a budget bill passed last June. Instead of 182 days, schools will require 455 hours for students in half-day kindergarten, 910 hours for students in grades 1 through 6 or in all-day kindergarten, and 1,001 hours for students in grades 7 through 12. Under an hourly system, schools could extend daily hours to make up for lost days instead of adding on to the calendar.

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