Wowsers it has been cold here in Piqua! January in Ohio can bring many variables and this year it appears low temperature, wind and snow are at the top of the list. These variables remind all of us to be prepared for winter weather. The sub-arctic blasts are a good reminder of our vulnerability as humans. Dressing in layers, wearing hats, scarves, gloves and even pulling out the thermal underwear are all great strategies based upon what we are experiencing this year! Staying warm and safe is extremely important for everyone, especially our students. This is the time of year we as parents need to take a second look at what our children are wearing before they step outside. Although the conversation of proper attire for the weather occurs often in our home, I am amazed at how many times the reminder for gloves and hats needs to be made followed by affirmation of caring, thus the reason for the reminder.
There are many variables taken into account when determining if a calamity day is to be used. We care at Piqua City Schools and safety is on the forefront of weather related decisions. On a typical winter day the decision making process starts the evening before monitoring the weather forecast. Our goal is to gather as much information before several of us head out at 4:30 a.m. to begin driving the roads.
Why drive so early? Keep in mind our first bus leaves the bus compound at 6:10 AM. We generally need to make our decision for delaying or closing between 5:15 a.m. and 6 a.m. If we delay for two hours the decision to stay open or close needs to be made between 7:15 a.m. and 8 a.m. Early morning drives allow us to check the roads for the potential safe passage of our buses. We also check our parking lots and sidewalks which are being cleaned and cleared by our custodial and maintenance crews who also start early in the morning. Along with the maintenance crew our bus mechanic is working diligently starting and preparing buses. Although we were prepared for school on Monday, Jan. 27, we experienced bus difficulties and were forced to cancel school for the day. Yes, many variables determine our decision making process.
As evident this winter, we also must take temperature into account for our decision to close school. The temperature factor is extremely critical for consideration of our students who walk or wait for a bus. While there is no specific “law” as to when our schools close for cold, medical experts have determined that -20 degrees Fahrenheit for temperature or wind chill can cause frostbite in 15 minutes or less.
What about making up the time? The current law in Ohio Revised Code allows school districts to utilize up to five calamity days. We also have two additional student days built into our calendar. As of Jan. 28, Piqua City School District has expended six calamity days as a district. Springcreek Primary has used two additional days because of water problems in the fall. As it stands, we have five make-up dates scheduled starting June 2 if needed. While the idea of make-up days is not that appealing just writing the word June in the previous sentence made me a bit warmer.
However, due to this year’s severe winter, two additional options have surfaced to potentially offset used calamity days. One option is for our district to apply for up to three alternative calamity days also known as “blizzard bag” days. This option provides work for students on-line or via take-home work once school resumes. Students have two weeks to complete the work for credit. Our Piqua City Schools Board of Education will take this option into consideration at the Jan. 30 regular meeting.
Governor Kasich announced the second option on Jan. 27 stating he is interested in working with the state legislators to provide relief for schools through additional calamity days. That option is yet to be determined. We will keep parents informed as more information becomes available
Richard A. Hanes is the superintendent for Piqua City Schools