COLUMBUS — Ohio's governor sought to make civics cool for a group of elementary students Wednesday as he signed a bill giving them four extra calamity days this year.
Snow, ice and harsh temperatures caused many districts across the state to exhaust the school year's five allowable calamity days — most commonly called "snow days," in which schools can close without making up the lost instructional time.
With the help of state lawmakers, Gov. John Kasich explained to students gathered at the Statehouse how the proposal made its way through the Legislature and arrived on his desk. He said he planned to sign the bill because schools have missed many days of classes.
Plus, he joked, "I don't want thousands of 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds marching on my house."
Schools have been waiting for the relief. Many canceled classes for nine or more days this year. Some Guernsey County schools in the eastern part of the state have topped 17 such days.
The new law takes effect immediately. It lets districts use the additional calamity days only after holding class on four other scheduled days off, such as holidays or school breaks.
Under the measure, districts can continue to make up missed days through 30-minute increments tacked onto regularly scheduled school days. They also have the option of using work-at-home "blizzard bags" and online lessons. And schools can excuse graduating seniors for any makeup days that occur after commencement ceremonies.
Kasich inked the measure under the watchful eyes of fifth-grade students from Stingel Elementary School in north-central Ohio. They had lobbied him to sign the bill. The Ontario school has used 10 calamity days this year.
As a result of the law, Stingel Elementary School will only have one day to make up at the end of the year, the governor's office said.
"So I'm going to sign this, and it's going to be the law," Kasich told the students. "Now, that's a pretty cool experience to have."
A group of fourth-grade students from Greensview Elementary in suburban Columbus also watched the bill signing.
Beyond the civics lesson, Kasich warned students not to take drugs. He said, "it will hurt your ability to have your dreams."
"When you take them and you get hooked on them, it's like having an alligator live in your house," Kasich said. "It chases you around every day until you feed it. And if you don't feed it, it'll kill you."
The governor, a father of twin daughters, also imparted several other pieces of advice:
- Dream big. "You should start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up."
- No bullying in school. "We don't want to ever bully."
- Seek help with math. "There is no embarrassment when you don't get it for asking about it till you get it."
- Pray daily. "I want you to pray for your teacher, your mom or your dad or your family and your grandpa ... because God's got a special plan for you — each one of you."