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Blizzard bags, not extra days, to make up APS calamity days

3/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

Akron Public Schools (APS) students will not have to go to school June 6, 9 and 10 to make up for snow days after all.

The district’s schools have closed for cold and snowy weather eight times this winter (nine for the Bridges Academy, including after a water line break last fall). State law allows schools to waive up to five such “calamity days,” but after that, they must make up the next four missed days before they are allowed another four waiver days, following recent Ohio General Assembly legislation.

School districts must submit a plan to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for such calamity contingency days at the beginning of the school year, said Superintendent David James. APS’ plan for this year, before the new ruling permitting options, was to tack on makeup days at the end of the school year, if necessary.

At the APS Board of Education meeting March 24, James explained the ODE’s new “blizzard bag” option, in which teachers make up a bag — real or virtual — of class assignments amounting to about a day’s worth of work for the students.

James said the Akron Education Association teachers union has expressed support for the idea, and the school board members then voted unanimously to go with blizzard bags instead of extra days to make up the lost instruction time.

The teachers will make up three sets of relevant and challenging assignments (four for Bridges Academy), and students will have two weeks to complete each one and hand them in for class credit. If they do not hand in one of the assignments, they will receive a zero and be counted absent for a day, James said.

These must be completed by the end of May, he said. High school seniors are finished by then and are exempt from the makeup work, he added.

James and board members discussed the negative feedback they had received about extending the school year further into June.

“Very seldom have we had good attendance on makeup days,” said James, adding many students’ families and teachers already have vacations planned for immediately after school lets out.

Board President Lisa Mansfield pointed out the nonair-conditioned buildings will be hot by the middle of June, when the makeup days would have been held.

The blizzard bag plan must still be submitted to and approved by the ODE, James said. Assuming that it is, the staff will create the three “bags” and distribute them to students. The administrators are focusing on online assignments, he said, although actual papers will be given to students without Internet access.

Students also may use the schools’ computers before and after school, and the libraries will have copies of the assignments for students to work there, James said. The APS will notify parents when the plan is approved and finalized, he said. The final day of school will remain June 5.

In other business, construction at the King Community Learning Center (CLC) has hit another snag, as one of the building contractors is going out of business. DSV Builders, of Niles, is financially unable to finish the general trades work it was contracted to do, said APS Facilities Director Paul Flesher.

The company has completed about $700,000 worth of work, Flesher said, leaving another $320,000 of work such as landscaping, building a retaining wall and parking lot paving to finish.

Due to the urgent need to get the building finished, the board members approved, as urgent necessity, dispensing with the competitive bidding process to hire another company to do the work.

The board also honored the boys Buchtel CLC basketball team and its coach, Steve White. The team won this year’s City Series championship.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for April 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway St.

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