Students in Northeast Ohio have seen several days off this year due mostly to ice, snow and freezing temperatures. The number of calamity days some districts have called would have had parents and children (not to mention teachers) wondering if those extra days off in the winter would have to be made up come spring or summer a few years ago.

Today, that might not be as great a worry, thanks to changes in state law that provide for greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling around potential days off due to snow, cold, power outages, illness or other unexpected reasons.

Twinsburg Superintendent Kathryn Powers said during the Twinsburg school board meeting Feb. 7 that she has received questions from parents about how many days the district has before they have to look at make-up days. That morning, multiple districts, included Twinsburg, closed schools due to heavy snowfalls.

"Moms and dads, you might remember back when you were in school we had five days, and after the fifth day, school districts would have to make up those days," Powers said. "Well, the Ohio Department of Education actually changed some things back in the year 2014, and if I recollect right, there were school districts in our state around that time that had encountered very severe weather and school districts were closed for a long time and the children were required to make up those days."

As a result, Powers said, the Ohio Department of Education changed the attendance requirements so schools could count hours in class rather than days.

Elementary schools must meet for a minimum of 910 instructional hours, and students in seventh through 12th grade must meet for 1,001 hours, said Julie Obraza, director of teaching and learning with the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools.

"Our district has always exceeded the minimum requirement," Obraza said. "First when we tracked by days and now as we are tracked by hours. Currently, we have 176 days school is in session for students. Kindergarten through sixth-grade students have 6.5 hour days and middle and high school students have 7 hour days. So we have about 234 hours of calamity days before a make-up day would be needed at the elementary levels and about 231 hours for the same at the upper levels."

Powers said the state minimum for students in half-day kindergarten is 455 hours.

However, not every hour in the school building counts toward the necessary time required by the state, Powers said.

"You don't count the day from the beginning of the day, when the children come to school to the end," Powers said. "We're only permitted to count the time that the students are actually engaged in classroom lessons or participating in co-curricular for which they get a grade. We can't count lunch, we can't count recess into that number. We don't count breakfast time at the beginning of the day."

In Twinsburg, school is in session for 173 days for all grade levels, Powers said. If the district doesn't need to call off any more days, Twinsburg students still will have a little more than 1,025 hours hours of instruction, which is well above the state average, Powers said.

"We are way over what the minimum requirements are," Powers said. "We just don't want to go by the minimum requirements."

So far, the district schools have had to call off four days due to the weather, except for Bissell, which lost power in November due to wind storms and had to close an additional day, Powers said.

"If we were counting days, today would have been their fifth day off," Powers said. "So back in the day, we would be looking at starting to make up some days with the next calamity day. But because the state has changed the rules that is no longer a problem for our boys and girls."

The Nordonia Hills City Schools also has more than the state minimum hours, according to information from Superintendent Joe Clark. The high school has roughly 128 hours above the state minimum, for up to 20 possible calamity days. The middle school is 99 hours above the state minimum, for about 15 calamity days. Lee Eaton has about 204 extra hours, for 32 possible calamity days. The elementary schools have 160 hours, for 26 possible calamity days. Half-day kindergarden has 51 extra hours, for eight possible calamity days.

Shelley Monachino, director of teaching and learning for the Tallmadge City Schools, said that Tallmadge students attend an average of 1,134 hours.

Christine Shaw, the student services coordinator for the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools, said that even with the six calamity days the district has had to call so far, "we still have excess planned time and are not in a position to require make-up days."

"For this year, we had planned 1,107 hours for the high school, 1,063 hours for the middle schools, and 1,019 hours for the elementary schools," Shaw said.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, ahelms@recordpub.com, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC.??