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The Calamity of Calamity Days

Angry Snowman is Angry - ©2010 Jenna Hatfield With warmer temperatures in our forecast and the month of March upon us, I am hoping against hope that Spring is just around the corner. However, all over the state of Ohio parents, educators and law-makers alike are just really beginning to understand the true force of this past (and still present) Winter. Due to outrageous amounts of snow, (30.1 inches in Columbus in just February alone, the snowiest Winter in 200 years) most school districts have not only used all of their Calamity Days, they have surpassed them.

Wait. Their what? Calamity Days. That's Ohio's special snowflake (pun intended) way of saying Snow Days. These are five days in which school districts do not have to "make up" the time if they are missed for whatever disaster befalls the district. Any days missed beyond those five need to be made up. The problem, however, is that it is not specifically stated as to how each individual school district can or, rather, cannot make up the time. Many schools are simply extending their calendar, pushing the last days of school into June. Others, however, are creating an uproar with their plans.

Here's what's going on in East Muskingum School District (though plans changed due to even more snow): instead of simply extending the school year (though there's that, too), students will be attending school on a Saturday and every day this week the school hour was extended by an hour. A friend of mine lamented the fact that her children weren't getting home from school until quarter to five. My family eats supper at that time. But okay, extend the school day an hour. I can deal with an overtired child at bedtime. I really can. Been there, done that. Will probably do it for a reason unrelated to Calamity Days in the near future.

School on Saturdays? Unacceptable.

I am all for educating our children as much as possible. Education is extremely important to me, to my husband and to our family in general. Do you know what else is important? Family time. There are two days that belong to us and us alone to do with as we so please, whether that's lounging around in our pajamas, visiting family in Pennsylvania, attending soccer games or who knows what else. Saturday and Sunday belong to my family. Not to the school district. Minus a Breakfast Club like scenario in which one of my (angelic) children received Saturday detention, I would absolutely refuse to send my children to school on Saturday. They need rest, a chance to recoup from a busy week spent learning and growing. They need time to laugh, play and be children.

Of course, this might not be the only year that schools are forced to make such a decision. The Governor has reduced the preset Calamity Days from five to three for the next school year. That's right; the days have been reduced, not increased. Reducing the amount of Calamity Days that school districts have to work with doesn't magically stop the snow from flying, the ice from freezing or the wind from taking temperatures down to an unsafe level. Again, while I want my children to receive their education, I have no desire for schools to decide to stay in session on a day that is simply unsafe just because they're out of Calamity Days and unwilling to schedule yet another makeup day. (A note of clarification: that doesn't mean schools can't take off above and beyond that number, it just means they need to make them up over the three which brings up the when and how of making them up.)

I don't necessarily have the answers. I do know that when we used up our Snow Days in my school district in Pennsylvania, our school year was extended. There wasn't a question as to whether or not we would extend school days or go to school on a Saturday. We just went to school until our days were made up. Yes, school stinks in June. It's hot. Kids want to be outside. Vacations are waiting to be had. However, many school districts around our country successfully employ year round school systems that have children in classes on beautiful, hot summer days. Those children seem to be surviving. I'd willingly give up a Wednesday in June over any Saturday. Ever. What I do know, however, is that the way things have been handled in many school districts and in our state government haven't been pleasing to many families. I understand and even give a thumbs up to the groups who are supporting the change in law but only if my child doesn't have to make up that day on a Saturday. June? Fine. Saturday? No way.

I hope that school districts and law-makers are learning something from everything going on right now. The changes to the law are happening. I get that. I support the idea of my child receiving a full education every year. I hope that those involved take the time to set forth plans that are in the best interest of the students receiving the education. Add hours on to the day with the full understanding that you'll likely have some grumpy kids on your hands the next morning. Add extra days on to the end of the year with the full understanding that they'll be distracted by the gorgeous weather outside. Add a day on to the end of the week with the full understanding that my children, and countless others like them, will not be attending. Whatever the case, setting forth a plan that states what your school district does and does not do when making up Calamity Days will better help parents, like me, know which ones to avoid. Springing new plans on families mid-year is unfair. Make the plan, make it known and allow families to make the best decisions for their children.

This has been an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Jenna Hatfield writes at Stop, Drop & Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land and totally understands if you want to send your kids to school on Saturday. By Sunday night, she's ready for Monday morning to arrive, too. Please ask her when her children are emotional, grumpy teenagers if she's still against the idea of sending them to school on Saturdays. Bets accepted.