Snow vs. virtual days: How Clark, Champaign schools decide when inclement weather hits

A snow plow cleans several inches of snow off the Tecumseh High School parking lot Tuesday morning. Area schools were closed or working virtually from home due to the weather. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
A snow plow cleans several inches of snow off the Tecumseh High School parking lot Tuesday morning. Area schools were closed or working virtually from home due to the weather. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Some Clark and Champaign school districts are continuing classes virtually when inclement weather causes school buildings to close.

This is due in part in an increase in remote access so that students could continue learning while at home when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The Springfield City School District has not closed this year, or given snow days, but instead has held four virtual learning days due to the winter weather.

“The mission is to educate each child. All students in grades K-12 and all educators are provided with a laptop computer or Apple iPad, as well as a personal hotspot for those that lack internet connectivity. By providing the aforementioned technology, the district is able to operate virtually to meet the needs of our students,” said Superintendent Bob Hill.

However, most districts do have a set number of “excess” hours they are allowed to use if schools should close for reasons such as winter weather, resulting in a snow day for those students.

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School districts in Ohio have not had calamity days since 2014, but they can schedule excess hours above the minimum number into their academic calendars, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

“Hours missed above the minimum do not have to be made up. However, if a school closes to the extent it will fall below the minimum number of hours, the school must extend its scheduled year,” the ODE website stated.

The minimum number of hours is 1,001 for students in grades 7-12; 910 for students in full-day kindergarten through 6; and 455 hours for half-day kindergarten, according to the ODE.

Although schools no longer have calamity days, some districts still refer to days they are closed with no schoolwork as “calamity days,” which can include school issues such as snow days, flooding and bus issues.

Clark and Champaign Schools  
SchoolHow many days closed/delayed as of 2-16How many days virtual
Clark-Shawnee51
Global Impact STEM AcademyAt least 1*At least 5*
Graham52
Greenon51
Mechanicsburg72
Northeastern51
Northwestern13
Southeastern70
Springfield04
Tecumseh51
Triad71
Urbana50
   
   
Source: Individual school districts  
*Compiled from school's Twitter account 

Unlike Springfield, Urbana has not used any virtual days for students as the district does “not have any provisions for virtual days based on calamity days.”

Urbana’s Superintendent Charles Thiel said their calendar allows for five calamity days, which the district has used, before scheduling make up days at the end of the year. The district closed for their sixth time on Tuesday, which results in a makeup day on May 28.

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“We have not implemented virtual days across the district since we currently do not provide computer devices for all students. In addition, although most do have access, not all students are able to connect to the internet from home,” Thiel said.

The majority of schools have a total of five “calamity days” to use before superintendents decide to use virtual days instead of making them up at the end of the school year.

The schools that have closed or used at least five “calamity days” include Greenon, Northeastern, Clark-Shawnee, Tecumseh, Southeastern, Urbana City, Triad and Graham Local Schools.

Clark-Shawnee Superintendent Brian Kuhn said the decision to close schools to in-person learning comes down to one question - is it safe for school buses and student drivers to be on the road?

“If the answer to the question is no, it’s not safe, then we implement our plan for virtual learning if we are outside of our five allowed calamity days,” he said. “The safety and well-being of our staff is also a factor in the decision on whether or not to have them report to the building for work and we evaluate weather/road conditions accordingly.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Minimum number of instruction hours by grade:

1,001 hours for students in grades 7-12

910 hours for students in full-day kindergarten through 6

455 hours for students in half-day kindergarten

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