Galion BOE decides on makeup days

January 27, 2014

Matt Echelberry

The Galion Board of Education held a special meeting on Jan. 28 to discuss options for makeup days during this school year.

Including that day, the district has used 11 Calamity Days, which the superintendent said is consistent with other districts in the area. Schools are allowed up to five Calamity Days by state law.

On Monday Ohio Governor John Kasich asked the state legislature for a one-time increase in Calamity Days. “School closures can, of course, be an inconvenience but student safety always comes first. Many schools have already hit the maximum number of snow days, or will soon, and if they exceed it and have to extend the school year it can wreak havoc with schools budgets and schedules,” Kasich stated in a press release.

While awaiting the state to make a decision, the administrators at Galion City Schools discussed their options. If the Board took no action that morning, and there was no help from the state, students would have six days to make up.

Superintendent Mark Stefanik presented the Board with two options. The first was to revise the calendar, using President’s Day and the Monday during Spring Break as makeup days. This would still leave the district with four days to make up.

For the second option, Stefanik stated: “The Ohio Department of Education has offered the opportunity to limit the number of makeup days.”

This new option is to use “Blizzard Bags,” which would allow them to make up three Calamity Days. However, he went on to explain they are not allowed to use it for any days that have already happened, only any future Calamity Days.

School districts have to option to adopt a policy for Blizzard Bags at the beginning of each school year. Galion chose not to use it, but ODE has put the option back on the table due to this year’s harsh winter weather.

With this policy, teachers prepare school work that students can do from home, either online or on paper. They have two weeks to make up the work.

Board member Jennifer Kuns asked if teachers would have enough time to prepare the bags.

Stefanik explained they have from August through November to prepare. They have to think ahead to what will be covered in their lesson plans when a Calamity Day could potentially occur.

Board members unanimously passed a motion to use President’s Day and the Monday during Spring Break as makeup days, then passed a second motion to use Blizzard Bags. (Board members Bob Zeisler and Heath Watkins were absent.)

Before these changes take effect, the superintendent will work with the Galion Education Association and OPSE and a Memorandum of Understanding regarding each motion will be drafted and sent to the Ohio Department of Education for final approval.

Graduation day was another consideration. Even with two makeup days during the remaining school year, administrators were concerned about makeup days continuing after graduation and getting seniors to return to school.

They considered the option to push back the date. It is currently set for Friday, May 30.

Kuns asked if Saturday schools were another option for making up days, or if they could allow seniors to use that option.

Stefanik explained that the Board set this year’s contingency plan for extending the school year by five days, if needed. They cannot adjust the plan and cannot make exceptions for seniors.

High School Principal Ron Williams was worried there may be more snow, and therefore more closings, on the way. “Now is the time to move graduation day, if that’s what you decide to do,” he commented.

“It won’t be popular with a lot of folks,” Board President Dennis Long stated. “But do we want to move graduation as a precaution?”

“It may not be popular, but people are seeing this winter for what it is. This is unusual, even in Ohio,” Stefanik said.

“This is significant enough of a change that we need to take time to think about it,” Kuns stated.

Administrators decided to hold a public hearing about moving graduation day during the special meeting on Feb. 6. They invite senior students, their families and anyone who would like to give input on the decision to attend. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Middle School computer lab.