Remote learning became a major focus for schools last year when COVID-19 hit, but right now in Highland County, it has helped them again when needing to hit a minimum number of instructional hours. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) changed the rule from calamity days to a minimum number of instructional hours in 2014. The minimum hours needed for each grade are:
* 455 hours for students in half-day kindergarten.
* 910 hours for students in full-day kindergarten through grade 6.
* 1,001 hours for students in grades 7-12.
The new shift to hours allows for more flexibility on how schools tackle the snow day or COVID-related problems. One example is delays at the beginning of the school, which instead of taking up a whole calamity day as they previously did, now only take up the hour(s) of the delay.
“The state of Ohio moved to hours, with minimum hours that you have to be in session, but our board policy and our teacher contract still talks to days and we are gonna be addressing that at our negotiations this year to address that converting that to hours instead of days, and so we all know that we have in the back of our minds that our minimum hours for high school is 910 hours that the state established, but we still operate off of those days,” Fairfield Superintendent Tim Dettwiller said.
Below, superintendents from four of the county’s five public school districts talk about those hours and how each district is combating calamity:
Bright Local Superintendent Mike Bick said the district has had four calamity days, and shifted to remote learning days for two days it missed this past week. Bright Local is allowing the school to go to remote learning days and still have its students spend time at home with instruction.
Bick also said that the school is in good shape for hitting its minimum hour threshold.
“I still have some leeway there but when we had a day this week, actually it was the Wednesday, we had indicated to teachers, you know, looks like there’s snow coming in for Thursday and possibly Friday to go ahead and anticipate those being remote learning days,” he said. “So, they sent home some packets, they sent home some Chromebooks, and those days count as remote days.”
Fairfield Local has had five calamity days for high school and middle school, and seven for its elementary school.
“The days that we have missed so far, before this week, we have had on October the 20th a closure due to Covid, due to a high number of quarantine for our students,” Dettwiller said. “We had about 150 students that were out and so we closed on that day, and then on the 21st and 22nd of October, our elementary students were out due to Covid. Staff reported at our high school, students and staff, and middle school all reported. Then prior to this week we had four weather closures.”
This past week, Dettwiller announced that any future days missed would become remote learning days, which do not count as calamity days. The two days the school was closed, students were learning from their homes. The district submitted a plan to ODE on moving instruction from in-person to remote as needed, and was approved, so as needed the district can go remote. It also asked its staff and 82 percent of them wanted to do remote learning instead of making up school days.
“The biggest response we got with issues were that their internet service was not a high enough quality, and so we’re looking at getting Wi-Fi hotspots that students and staff will be able to check out,” Dettwiller said. “We should have those in within a week.”
Greenfield has totaled 12 calamity days, according to the Superintendent Quincy Gray. Eight of those have been because of weather and four of them due to COVID. Two of them came before Christmas break and the other two were an extension of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, adding two days off to that week.
Gray said the district is not past the point to make up days yet.
However, she said that when they are, for high schoolers, they would have them be remote learning days. For middle school, she said they would probably send home paper packets because it would be easier than sending home devices. She said the elementary school is still 20.46 hours ahead of the threshold, so she doesn’t anticipate getting close.
“But, knowing that some of them don’t have internet access, we actually put out a call today to families to arrange for them to either come and pick up a Chromebook that is LTE-capable or a hotspot,” Gray said. “So, just in preparation for next week’s forecast, we just want to make sure that they’re prepared, and then for those who aren’t able to come, then our transportation team will be delivering those this afternoon to those families.”
Hillsboro has used 11 calamity days, seven weather-related and four Covid-related, according to Superintendent Tim Davis. The four days were taken right before Christmas break due to the district having a lack of substitutes.
Davis said the district decided not to do virtual learning because administrators didn’t think they would get a lot of effort out of some students on those days.
“Right now, like I said, we have a surplus of hours that our kids are going, so we are not utilizing virtual learning at this point because we still have some hours we’re ahead of the state limit,” Davis said. “Snow days is all about making sure our kids can arrive and get home safe on the buses, and we’re trying to do the best that we can to keep all of our kids safe when there’s inclement weather.”
The Lynchburg-Clay administrators did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.