Clark County students might return to schools in wake of ECOT closure


About 150 students in Clark County will need a new school after one of the largest online schools shut down on Friday.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is being closed effective immediately by its sponsor, according to Ohio Department of Education officials.

MORE: ECOT, Ohio’s largest online charter school, may close by next week

“The Ohio Department of Education was informed this evening that the ESC of Lake Erie West has suspended the operations of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow,” state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said Thursday night. “We are beginning the implementation of a plan to support students and families in identifying new educational opportunities to meet their needs.”

About 80 ECOT students — including about 50 in high school — live in the Springfield City School District, Springfield Superintendent Bob Hill said. The school has the capability to handle about 25 openings at its local online school, OnCourse. Those students must meet with a teacher for an hour about four times per week, he said, and complete the rest of their schooling online.

“We’ve already looked at some preliminary things in terms of reaching back out to those families, letting them know about (OnCourse),” Hill said. “We’ll see how that falls.”

The remainder of the students could return to a brick-and-mortar school, Hill said. The students may also have the option to attend other online schools similar to ECOT, he said.

RELATED: Charter school failure could be largest in state history

“I’ve always maintained the Springfield City School District provides a much higher-quality education than what they’re receiving in community and online schools,” Hill said.

Students must begin looking for a new school as soon as possible, the ODE said. The Springfield ECOT students range from kindergarteners through high schoolers.

Financially, if every student returns, the district would see about $6,000 per student more or about $500,000.

“I’ll be curious to see how it all shakes out and if we’ll get some of those dollars ECOT falsely claimed over the years,” Hill said.

ECOT claimed an enrollment of more than 15,000 students just two years ago, including more than 1,000 in the Dayton area. But state officials eventually challenged that figure, suggesting it had closer to 6,000 full-time students.

MORE LOCAL: Springfield, Clark County commissioners to hold joint work sessions

ECOT argued that it merely had to “present” 920 hours of “learning opportunities” for students, while ODE said students had to be logged on and engaged in school activities. ECOT fought and lost multiple court challenges, and the state began clawing back $60 million that it paid the school in 2015-2016 based on the higher enrollment figure.

ECOT consistently ranked near the bottom on state test scores, earning five Fs and a D on the 2016-17 state report card components.

“Districts and schools have already taken actions to streamline and accelerate their enrollment processes (for ECOT students),” DeMaria said. “We know the entire education community will come together with care and compassion in the best interest of these students.”

The Ohio Department of Education posted information on its web site to help families seeking new schools.

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