Snow days. The very words trigger a nostalgia avalanche of pre-snow day rituals. From backwards PJs to flushing ice down the toilet to spoons under the pillow, it seemed like these superstitions were sure to result in a call from the superintendent the next morning. It was smooth sailing from there, a day filled with sledding, hot chocolate and free from homework.
But even snow days couldn’t escape the grasp of the horrid school system and became something else entirely: calamity days. What was once a gleeful break morphed into stressful busy work. However, thanks to a new state law the students’ right to snow days has finally returned.
The new law, House Bill 410, changes the way instruction time is measured from days to hours. Students in grades seven through 12 must receive a minimum of 1,001 hours of open instruction. Thecodedefinesopeninstruction as any time students are attending regularly classes or participating in supervised activities such as assemblies. The change allows schools to accumulate excess hours, which they can use in place of calamity days.
“Under the new state law, high school students can be out of school due to calamity days for no more than 187 hours or 28 school days,” Assistant Principal
Karen Sedoti said.
Schools that surpass the minimum required hours add them to their excess hours. A school only has to make up hours if it’s close enough to fall below the minimum requirement, making calamity days a thing of the past.
In addition, the way attendance is taken has been substantially changed by the new law as well. Attendance now has to use scheduling to closely track the amount of hours a student is in school, causing the mere skipping of classes to snowball into a truancy case.
“Attendance has to track the hours a student is in school, which doesn’t include lunch, late arrival or early dismal. This makes it easy for the hours a student is absent to start accumulating and parents can receive an Excessive Absences letter after 36 to 65 hours missed. It’s important students timestamp with attendance, come back to school when they can and get an excused absence to fulfill the new requirements,” Attendance Secretary Kathy Clemens said.
The main goal of the new bill is to decriminalize student truancy. If a student is habitually absent the school is now required to implement a Student Absence
Intervention Plan, which is formed withhelpfromtheschool,family and student. Schools are no longer allowed to suspend or expel students for missing too much school and schools must implement a Student Absence Intervention Plan before filing a complaint with juvenile court. These aspects of the new law have contributed to addressing the high numbers of student absences in Ohio. According to a report released by the Delaware County Courts explaining the bill, students who miss two days a month or more are more likely to fall behind academically and less likely to graduate, regardless of the reason, race, ethnicity, family income and other factors.
“It’s more important now that students don’t skip class and dilly- dally because the time starts to add up. Missing 15 minutes of a class period a day escalates to two hours and 45 minutes of missing class time by the end of the week. The new bill was made to encourage and support a preventative approach to excessive student absences,” Clemens said.
For more information on the new bill and how it affects the district, visit the Ohio Department of Education website.