Marysville School District (MSD) released its first batch of blizzard bags to students Friday after last week’s three school cancellations.
Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Langhals said the school district closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to protect students from the below-zero temperatures, poor road conditions and large amounts of snow. With Friday’s closure marked the seventh day of the school year missed due to a calamity day being used, and resulted in the district using its seventh calamity day and issuing blizzard bag assignments.
“I wish we didn’t have to use any calamity days,” Langhals said. “I wish we were in school every day we’re supposed to be in school, but then you have to consider safety and we have to make sure it’s safe for our students to get to school. Unfortunately, Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated recently.”
A blizzard bag is a collection of homework assignments a teacher can create for children to complete while they’re home during a school cancellation. Langhals said once the district reaches its seventh calamity day, students will have to complete their blizzard bag assignments.
He said teachers had already prepared their students’ blizzard bags for any upcoming school cancellation by Thursday. He said no teachers reported any complications with students receiving their blizzard bag assignments online.
“We choose to do the blizzard bags because we can engage with our kids virtually and keep them stimulated and moving forward on academic standards and topics they need to continue to learn,” Langhals said. “The state allows us to go virtual on this, so we want to support our families and move forward with this as well. It’s a unique opportunity.”
Langhals said not every district uses blizzard bags on missed days. He said the district chooses to use them to make up for those days missed. The Ohio Department of Education’s website lists the use of blizzard bags as optional.
The assistant superintendent said students could access their assignments either through their school’s website or through Schoology. He said those who didn’t have reliable access to a computer or the internet Friday can meet with their teachers for their blizzard bag assignments. He said all students have two weeks to complete their blizzard bag assignments.
He said the last time blizzard bags were issued was in the 2014-2015 school year.
Langhals explained though all school districts have a fixed number of calamity days they can use, the system MSD uses differs from others.
He said the first two days are normal cancellation days; day three is where the district makes up a school day by holding school on a staff inservice day in March, which will be March 8 this year; then, days four, five and six are normal cancellations; and days seven, eight and nine are where students have to complete blizzard bag systems.
He said once the district reaches day 10, school will be cancelled as normal until the calamity day count reaches about 20 or more days. Then, the district has to make up those days.
Langhals said the calamity day system changed when the district switched to being based on hours. Each school has a certain number of hours it can miss before it has to make up days, and those instructional hours are translated to days.
He explained a day’s worth of instructional time is worth 6.25 hours for the elementary schools and Creekview Intermediate School, 6.5 hours for Bunsold Middle School, 6.47 hours for Marysville High School and 6.63 hours for the Marysville Early College High School (MECHS). That would mean the MECHS would have to make up days sooner than the other schools if the approximately 20 or more days of school are missed throughout the year.
Langhals said with the third day as a make up day and the seventh, eighth and ninth days, this saves the district four days on its number of days it can miss before it starts eating into summer vacation days, starting May 23.
“We want kids in school, and that’s why we choose to make up a day on March 8,” Langhals said. “Would we have to do that? No, but we value education and we want kids in school.”
He said the district’s calamity day schedule is consistent with that of the 2019-2020 school year, and 2017-2018 school year was similar to this year’s schedule.
Langhals said the days selected for making up cancelled school days are determined by parent feedback.
He said by surveying the community in 2015, which surveyed 767 parents, the district learned parents wanted a make up day in March, as “students are more engaged in March than they would be late May going in the summer. He said “kids are really focused on summer break at that point.” He said parents also didn’t want make up days on holiday weekends because of “work schedules and plans with families.”
“The feedback we received is, ‘if you can, please protect those three-day weekends for us,’” Langhals said.
According to the results of the survey, 45 percent, a plurality, of parents who participated in the survey said it’s important to have a week-long spring break. Also, the survey indicated 39 percent of parents said it’s important to preserve three-day holiday weekends in January and February, with 38 percent not having a preference.
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