A blast of snow and frigid temperatures made the Miami Valley a winter wasteland last week. The good news for Fairmont students was an unplanned mini-winter break thanks to a 2-hour delay and three full calamity days. The bad news is that the Kettering School District has now used all its calamity days, and any more cancellations will have to be made up at the end of the school year.
Like many things in public education in Ohio these days, the state has made new rules regarding so-called calamity days for schools, but some confusion surrounds the topic. While many districts are now counting hours, the Kettering School District is still bound by the old five calamity day rule.
Over the summer, the Ohio Department of Education began using a new system in which schools must reach a minimum number of school hours instead of days per year. According to the ODE website, high schools must have been in session a minimum of 1,001 hours by the end of the year. Each closing or delay is subtracted from a school’s scheduled hours for the school year.
Most area school districts are operating under the new system and are now counting down the hours. However, Centerville and Kettering are not eligible for the new hours-based system because the switch is based on a district’s teacher contracts.
According to the ODE, a school district may not switch to the new hours system if a teacher contract was started before July 1, 2014, and is currently in effect. This is the case for Kettering.
“The current agreement with the school district was drafted before the new legislation was announced,” Kettering Superintendent Scott Inskeep said. “The district will be eligible to make the switch by the 2017-18 school year, and it will make this switch since the new legislation requires the hour system.”
Last year, The Flyer calculated how the switch to hours instead of days could impact Fairmont High School. In 2013-14, the Kettering City Schools schedule called for 177 days of instruction. Students at the high school attend class for 7.25 hours per day, but get 8 one-hour early dismissals. The math shows that Fairmont High School students were attending school 1,275 hours per year.
This would give Fairmont 274 hours beyond the minimum to use in the event of any “calamities.” That translates into a total of almost 38 days that, theoretically, school could be canceled without the days having to be made up. That contrasts sharply with the 36.25 hours offered (via five calamity days) now.
Despite the huge discrepancy, the superintendent said he sees no change in sight for the system. “At this time, I do not anticipate any changes related to the days and times provided by the hours system,” Inskeep said.
With every snowstorm, blizzard or dangerously cold temperature, the superintendent must make the tough decision of whether or not to call a closing or delay.
“The decision of calling a closing or delay is solely based on the safety of the students and staff,” Inskeep said. “Although we collaborate with other districts, the overlying factors are the input from business managers and the condition of the roads.”
Predictably, lots of students, staff and parents have different reasons for either wanting or not wanting a delay or cancellation, and the superintendent hears the complaints.
“The decision doesn’t make all people happy,” Inskeep said, “but that is leadership.”