On July 1, 2021, Governor DeWine signed H.B. 110, Ohio’s 2022-2023 biennial budget, into law, which allows local, city, exempted village and joint vocational school districts (“school districts”) to request to use an “online learning model” through the creation of an “online learning school.” Online learning is defined as a scenario where students work primarily from home on assignments delivered via an internet or computer-based instructional model. An online learning school, operated by a school district, is a new concept that differs from Remote Learning Plans utilized during the 2020-2021 school year. An online learning school also differs from a blended learning model or an alternative school (information on these learning models is available here).
While an online learning school could function in a similar manner to the remote learning plan used by school districts during the 2020-2021 school year, districts should carefully consider the requirements for an online learning school. First and foremost, an online learning school will be recognized by the Ohio Department of Education as a separate school that is being operated by the local, city, exempted village or joint vocational school district. The online learning school will have its own IRN number, and students must be assigned to the online learning school for purposes of EMIS reporting and school funding. Additionally, to operate an online learning school, a local, city, exempted village or joint vocational school district must:
- Provide students enrolled in the online learning school with a computer that is equipped with a filtering device (or software) that protects against internet access to materials that are obscene or harmful to juveniles at no cost;
- Provide internet access to all students enrolled in the online learning school at no cost;
- Provide a comprehensive orientation to students and their parents/guardians prior to enrollment in the online learning school;
- Implement a learning management system that tracks the time students participate in online learning activities; and
- Document all student learning activities that are completed offline with participation record checks and approved by the teacher of record.
Furthermore, the state board of education has been tasked with revising the operating standards that are applicable to school districts to include standards for online learning. These standards must include:
- Student-to-teacher ratio of no more than 1:125 per online learning classroom;
- The ability of all students, at any grade level, to earn credits and advance to the next grade upon demonstrating mastery or knowledge through competency-based learning models;
- Requiting that online learning schools have an annual instructional calendar of no less than 910 hours;
- Provisions for:
- The licensing of teachers, administrators and other professionals;
- Effective instructional materials and equipment; and
- Supervision of each school, including regulations for the preparation of all necessary records and reports, admission of pupils, etc.
While H.B. 110 provides districts with a mechanism to continue providing online instruction, districts should carefully consider all of the obligations and guidelines before opening and operating an online school. Districts must also consider staffing issues and collective bargaining obligations. Finally, districts should determine how the needs of students with disabilities who enroll in the online learning school will be met. Any school district that wishes to develop an online learning school must complete the School District Online Learning School Notification, which can be downloaded here, and submit it to this email address by August 1, 2021.