Salem school chief explains calamity day policy

SALEM- Today’s projected frigid temperatures had the city school board talking calamity days Tuesday night.

Both Salem schools and St. Paul school have canceled school today.

At the request of the board, Superintendent Tom Bratten explained that the district has five calamity days that do not need to be made up, as well as three blizzard bag days in which students take home work that has been assigned by teachers which also do not need to be made up.

Bratten said that beginning next year the state requirement will be changed to hours instead of days and that districts will not be allowed to schedule less hours than the prior year. The Salem district currently schedules 30 days over the projected hour requirement, he noted.

Bratten further explained that the board will work with the teacher’s union to determine how many days off is permissible before they need to make them up.

“Obviously it’s not educationally sound to miss 30 days,” he said following the meeting.

In addition to the calamity days, the board questioned Bratten on his policy regarding the temperature.

Bratten responded that he follows multiple forecasts and tries to use common sense considering the district’s walk zone, which measures up to 1.5 miles- a 20 to 30 minute walk for some students.

Wind chills below zero can be dangerous for walkers- of which the district has 1,100- so if there is not a significant enough increase in windchill from a two-hour delay (putting the elementary start time at 9:30 a.m.) then school can be canceled, Bratten said. Each day is considered separately, he said, and the decision to call off is different from other area schools due to the district’s number of walkers.

Bratten did say that parents can always keep their children home if they fear for their safety.

In other business the board approved scale adjustments for certificated staff members Brianne Severn, Jennifer Neapolitan and Kelsie Markijohn; approved a certificated FMLA leave for Megan Miller beginning approximately Feb. 24; and hired Robin Lester and Henry Loudon as certificated substitutes and Joshua White and Larry Wassem as substitute bus drivers.

Also at the meeting high school Principal Joe Shivers reported that five students have scored a 30 or higher ( 95 percentile nationwide) on the ACT and will be recognized by the Columbiana County Educational Service Center at a breakfast banquet in May. An additional seven scored a 28 or 29.