MARIETTA - If the snow days start to pile up this year, a couple of local school districts hope to provide students with makeup work online. An Ohio law approved last year gave districts the option of posting lessons online to make up for as many as three calamity days after the five allowed under state code are used. Morgan Local Schools participated in the program last year, and Belpre City Schools hope to join them this year.
"We think that this is going to be a great option for us," said Morgan Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe.
Although teachers prepared lessons for potential missed days and employees had everything in place to post them online in the 2011-12 school year, the mild winter resulted in only two missed days of school and the plans went unused.
Belpre Superintendent Tony Dunn said posting lessons online is a better way to make up for lost instructional time than tacking on additional days to the end of the school year. "Making up classes in June is not productive at all," he said.
Snyder-Lowe said Morgan has opted to have school on Saturday, use a day previously designated for teacher development or extend the school day in the past in order to make up lost time prior to state testing in April. The online approach is another option to do that, she said.
Nearly 140 school districts, career and technical centers, private and charter schools have applied for the program this year. Belpre City didn't appear on a list provided by the Ohio Department of Education because its application was apparently not submitted by the Aug. 1 deadline, although the board of education approved the measure in July. Dunn said he's working to see if the district will still be allowed to participate. Other area school district officials said they had considered the approach but decided not to apply.
Frontier Local Superintendent Bruce Kidder said many parts of the district don't have Internet access, but online makeup days might be an option when Internet service expands under a project recently approved by county commissioners. The law says students without Internet access can either be provided with "blizzard bags" containing hard copies of the assignments or be given the opportunity to work on them at school. Students who get the assignments online, from blizzard bags or back at school have two weeks to complete and turn in the work. Marietta City Schools Superintendent Harry Fleming said he felt the process was too cumbersome and questioned how effective the instruction could be since the lessons would be planned in advance, not knowing when a day would actually be missed.
Snyder-Lowe said Morgan's lessons are planned around the curriculum map for what students will be working on in January and February. They might not mesh precisely with what they're learning when school is called off, but the lessons review topics they are to be studying around that time.
"None of our (calamity day) lesson plans teach new concepts," she said.
Wolf Creek Local Superintendent Bob Caldwell said he liked the idea for high school students, but was told by state officials the policy had to be adopted from kindergarten up.
"I just don't feel that strongly that our younger grades were able to do the blizzard bags at this point, so we've opted not to go that route," he said.