One of the many changes associated with Ohio’s Biennial Budget, House Bill (HB) 110, includes revisions to the statutes addressing implementation of a Blended Learning Model. It’s important to be aware of these changes, as they are likely to impact district plans for implementation of blended learning models during the 2021-22 school year.
HB 110 revised the definition of “blended learning” as set forth in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 3301.079(J) to require that the combination of instructional delivery under a Blended Learning Model include time primarily in a supervised physical location away from home. While a combination of time spent via delivery of in-person and online instruction still is required, the HB 110 change removes flexibility from districts to allow for implementation of a Blended Learning Model that includes a majority of the time spent in online learning. While the addition of one word to the definition may seem minor, this change creates additional limitations on online learning at a time when districts already are struggling with limited options for continuation of online learning into the 2021-22 school year. In addition to this limitation, the definition of blended learning also has been revised to include a definition of “online learning,” which the statute defines to mean students working primarily from their residences on assignments delivered via an internet- or other computer-based instructional method.
HB 110 also revises ORC Section 3302.41 to remove the exemption from minimum school year or day requirements set forth in ORC Sections 3313.48 and 3313.481 that formerly applied under implementation of Blended Learning. Under the new language, schools opting to implement a Blended Learning Model now will be required to maintain an annual instructional calendar of not less than 910 hours.
In addition to the changes set forth in HB 110, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has released guidance regarding implementation of blended learning and online schools. Districts were required to submit Blended Learning Declarations by July 1, 2021, and the ODE Online & Blended Learning Considerations for 2021-22 School Year FAQ notes that if a district has submitted a Blended Learning Declaration and decides not to use a Blended Learning Model, the district should rescind its Blended Learning Declaration prior to August 31, 2021. As a result, districts that have submitted a Blended Learning Declaration should consider whether the HB 110 changes will result in a change of plans that might necessitate rescission of that Blended Learning Declaration and/or changes to district plans for implementation of a Blended Learning Model.