Calamity days already exceeding allotted amount for some school districts

By Will Sanders

January 22, 2014

By Will E Sanders


MIAMI COUNTY — A polar vortex, an especially harsh winter and double the normal amount of snowfall by mid-January are the reasons several schools in the northern portion of Miami County have already used up their five allotted calamity days.

In Bradford school officials have canceled class eight times so far this winter.

“We made up one of those days already on Monday, but the following day we had to use another,” said Superintendent David Warvel. “So we made up one and lost another.”

Warvel said the district will be having two other make up days on Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, which fall on Friday, Feb. 14, and Monday, Feb. 17.

Last year in the district, as is the case for neighboring school districts, one or two calamity days had been used by mid-January due to snow or extremely cold temperatures.

“This year it has gotten colder and has stayed colder for a longer time,” he said.

Due to Bradford’s location on the county line between Miami and Darke counties Warvel said when one county issues a snow emergency it usually results in a cancellation.

“You can’t argue safety with me,” Warvel said. “I am conservative when it comes to the health and safety of our students. … Safety of our children is our number one concern. Once they get to the school, we’ll educate them, but first and foremost is safety.”

Last year by this time the Covington school district had only used two calamity days, but so far this year they have used six.

Covington Superintendent David Larson said that means the district needs to make up one, which they will be doing on Friday, Feb. 14.

“We also have a couple of other holidays that we can use,” said Larson, should more calamity days be needed. “If we exceed those days we will add days to the end of the school year.”

Larson said he and fellow school officials weigh several considerations before deciding when to cancel a school day.

“Most obvious should be current road conditions,” Larson said. “We ask ourselves, ‘Can buses, student drivers, and staff make it to school safely?’ We also try to project future road conditions based on the potential for additional precipitation and temperature.”

In addition, Larson said the main concern has always been the safety of the students.

“There have been days this year when we have factored the temperature into our decision to delay or close,” he added.

In Piqua the decision on whether or not to use a calamity day begins as early as 4:30 a.m. when school officials check on road conditions, wind, temperature, snow and ice removal on sidewalks and parking lots, and the predicted forecast, said Piqua Superintendent Rick Hanes.

“Our buses can handle snow well while ice becomes more difficult,” Hanes said. “I also take into account our high school students who drive to school.”

So far this year the Piqua school district has used five calamity days, and Hanes said the district has “one extra day built into our schedule.”

“Our students go 181 days instead of the mandated 180,” he said. “This does give us an extra day if we need to use it for calamity.”

Should the district need to make up any days those would be made up between June 2-6.

Last year the Piqua school district used two calamity days the entire year — the second one they used was on March 6.

Will E Sanders may be reached at 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.