While Ohioans weathered their second blast of the winter deep freeze, school administrators are looking anxiously at their calendars as the brutal weather chews up their "calamity days" -- time off for emergencies.
State law requires Ohio schools to be in session for at least 175 days each academic year. Districts usually schedule more than the minimum number of days, building in a cushion to enable leeway for contingencies such as the weather.
The state allows five "calamity days," enabling districts to close their doors as needed without having to make up the lost time later. Because of the severity of this winter, nearly one-third of the districts in Ohio have used up their five days, and unless there is a change in state policy that could mean students doing without spring vacation or having additional school days tacked on in June.
Gov. John Kasich is asking legislators to increase the number of calamity days, citing the need for student safety in the face of severe weather, plus the additional burden in terms of cost that an extended school year will impose on school districts.
Our guess is that the legislature will act favorably on the governor's request. Winter in Ohio can be unpredictable, and with the potential of two more months of snowfall to contend with, it's likely that schools will be faced with more "snow days." School administrators need to be able to put the safety of their students ahead of any concerns about the cost of making up lost time later.
The school year already begins earlier than it did a generation ago, with students heading back to class in mid- to late August. Having them in school until mid-June or later deprives students and teachers alike of a needed respite. Having a few more calamity days in reserve is a good idea.
This is Ohio. There's no telling what the weather will bring.