School officials explain ‘snow day’ logistics

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

Aila and Vaeda enjoyed some fun in the snow during recent weather.

Aila and Vaeda enjoyed some fun in the snow during recent weather.

Record-Herald file photo

Once again, snow has blanketed the county this week. All local schools — Washington Court House City Schools, Miami Trace Local Schools, and Fayette Christian School — were on a two-hour delay Monday and Tuesday while Miami Trace closed for the day on Tuesday.

While snow days often come with fond memories, they can be tricky from a legal and learning standpoint.

Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS)

According to Trevor Patton, WCHCS Director of Marketing and Communications, “So far this school year, the Blue Lions have only had one snow day on Tuesday, Jan. 18. Belle Aire Intermediate School was also closed on Friday, Jan. 18 due to a lack of teachers in the building and available subs for the district.”

Patton further explained, “A few years ago the state of Ohio changed the requirement from school being measured in days to hours. K-6 students must attend school 910 hours a year, and 7-12 students must go for 1,001 hours. When you factor in that each level has a different hour requirement from the state, each building has a slightly different length to their school day to accommodate the transportation logistics, and our buildings had a staggered start to the year to accommodate comprehensive family orientations, this leaves each building with a different amount of days they can miss to stay compliant with the state’s hour requirements.

“So, while it’s not as simple as the old days in being able to say ‘we have so many days left’ as directed by the state, it does offer districts more flexibility to be able to tailor their schedules to fit the needs of each age range of students.”

When deciding whether or not WCHCS should go on a delay or closure, Patton explained via email that the decision is a team effort.

“Our maintenance team and transportation department work closely with the superintendent to prepare, assess, and decide what to do in the event of inclement weather,” he wrote. “Our maintenance crews work after school hours and even weekends to prepare for incoming weather when necessary, preparing our parking lots and sidewalks for the next day’s traffic, as well as coming in as early as 4 or 5 a.m. to address what changes may have occurred overnight. As they travel across town to prepare our buildings for the day, they take note of the state of the roads they travel and report them to the team. Additionally, our transportation team and superintendent also drive many of the routes to inspect for trafficability, making sure they are safe for our buses to drive.

“It’s not as simple as a specific measurement of snow or temperature that determines a delay or cancellation, rather it’s a complex combination of a wide array of factors, such as conditions of main and side roads in our transportation routes, windchill, the type of precipitation (like whether it’s fluffy snow or dense slush), as well as if two hours would result in a major change in these conditions.

“The inclement weather team communicates throughout this comprehensive process and makes a determination as they see necessary.”

Once the district reaches five days of school cancellation, the admin team will assess the situation, according to Patton.

When WCHCS close, the district utilizes the Canvas learning management system for students.

“(This) allows all assignments to be posted and accessed by every student in a single platform. Additionally, as our district is 1-to-1 (meaning we have a device for each student), our students have a dedicated device that they can use to access these assignments if need be. We also have resources available to assist with internet connection and other accommodations as needed for our students so that no Blue Lion is left unable to learn remotely,” wrote Patton.

Fayette Christian School

According to Larry Fitch, the principal of Fayette Christian School, they do not have “calamity days” but still keep track of their time spent in session versus out of school.

“We track the number of hours that are used against our accrued hours,” wrote Fitch via email. “If we exceed our accrued hours so that we fall below the state required number of hours, we would make up the days. We would use remote learning to make up hours/days.”

Remote learning options utilized for cancelled school days for Fayette Christian students is a blizzard packet for younger students and online programs for upper elementary and high school students.

Since Fayette Christian has students from all over the county as well as adjacent counties, Fitch explained, “for weather-related delays and cancellations, we follow the decision of Miami Trace.”

Miami Trace Local Schools

According to Miami Trace Administrative Assistant Kylie Lanman, “after using our fifth calamity day, we will transition to remote learning. All students are equipped with one-to-one devices and wifi hotspots are available upon request to support this learning model. Teachers have already been communicating with students on remote learning day expectations.”

As of Monday, Lanman explained Miami Trace had one of its five board-approved calamity days remaining. That day was used when school was cancelled Tuesday.

During remote learning, “students will access and complete classroom lessons via Google Classroom, Clever, and Google Meet. Students are very familiar with these programs, as they use them when in the classroom as well,” wrote Lanman via email. “Winter months are always challenging for the timing of call-outs. We do our best to provide advance notice when possible. We would like to say an extra thank you to our Fayette County road crews, our staff members, and our families.”

Regardless of school district delays, closures, or dismissals, information can be found on school websites, social media, and is typically sent to parents and/or guardians via email or phone. Information can also be found on the Fayette County Sheriff’s App which can be found by searching “Faycoso” in the appropriate App store.

When comparing the districts, Patton explained, “it’s important to note that WCHCS faces a very different situation than surrounding districts. While the county school has one of the largest bus routes in the state, traveling great lengths over many county roads, the majority of (WCHCS) bus routes last less than 20 minutes for any student. Additionally, we must factor in the well-being of the whole child when making any decision.

“Due to restrictions set by the USDA’s food service program, breakfast is unable to be offered at Cherry Hill on days that have a two-hour delay. Cherry Hill has our highest concentration of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, which means that the majority of our K-2 students that rely on nutrition from school may not have access to any breakfast that day.

“Obviously, getting students to and from school safely is the paramount factor in any decision regarding inclement weather, however we must think of every aspect of a child’s situation when making such decisions.

“With that said, there is something to be said about being a kid and the pure joy of a snow day. It’s rare that Blue Lions get a snow day at all, so we don’t want to take this exciting part of childhood away from them if we can help it.”

Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.

Aila and Vaeda enjoyed some fun in the snow during recent weather. and Vaeda enjoyed some fun in the snow during recent weather. Record-Herald file photo

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]