Weathering the storm, sort of

EAST PALESTINE – Village students had yet another snow day last week, putting the district three days over the maximum amount of closures allowed by the state before the school year must be extended.

The state allows districts five calamity days, although an alternative plan is offered and the district is already looking to take advantage of that opportunity.

The school board last week passed legislation seeking approval from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to use “blizzard bags” for the three additional days, and Superintendent George Fisk said the district is awaiting that approval.

The alternative makeup days are only offered for up to three days.

“Right now we have scheduled our makeup days, assuming we don’t get any help from the state,” he added.

Those dates are April 21, June 2 and June 3.

Meanwhile, Fisk is keeping an eye on a bill working its way through the state legislative process that would increase calamity days from five to nine for the rest of this school year.

The state is moving away from days next year and going to hours instead, which some county superintendents have said actually gives districts more time at their disposal for closures if necessary.

Fisk has said the change will not affect East Palestine until 2016, when the current collective bargaining agreement with its employees expires.

According to online National Public Radio reports the nine-day calamity day extension has support from both Republicans and Democrats. Gov. John Kasich is calling for support of the extension.

East Palestine is not the only district struggling with staying in session because of the weather – districts across the county and state have also surpassed their allotted calamity days.

East Palestine was at four days used as of Jan. 24, and then canceled classes three days in a row the week of Jan. 27 because of freezing temperatures. Students and staff were off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of that week.

Last Wednesday, Fisk and transportation director Barry Weigle drove around the entire district early that morning to see if a delay or cancellation was needed.

The district had originally called a two-hour delay, but soon after opted for the cancellation.

“It appeared at that time, about 4:30 a.m. to 5 a.m., that the snow was going to stop, and we thought maybe the city and townships would start to get ahead but then the rain started and it iced everything up,” Fisk said.

The district’s spelling bee originally scheduled for 8 a.m. that morning will now be held this Wednesday. Several athletic events have also been rescheduled as a result of the closures, and the Winter Homecoming dance has been delayed to Feb. 15.

Homecoming was originally scheduled for Feb. 1, but the district had to reschedule its boys and girls basketball games for that date.

The games against Crestview were supposed to take place Jan. 27 but were canceled as a result of the school closure.

Fisk said Feb. 1 was the only date the district could make up the two basketball games at Crestview.

“All the area schools are in a bind with making up games at this point. That was the only common date we could find between the two schools,” he said.