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Online & Blended Learning Considerations for 2021-22 School Year

Online & Blended Learning Considerations for 2021-22 School Year

On July 1, 2021 Governor DeWine signed House Bill 110, Ohio’s 2022-23 biennial budget, which contains a number of important changes to laws and programs that impact Ohio schools and districts. One of its more time-sensitive provisions includes modified requirements for local, city, exempted village or joint vocational school districts that intend to operate an online learning school for the 2021-2022 school year and beyond.

Section 3302.42 allows Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to approve a local, city, exempted village or joint vocational school district’s request to use an online learning model through the creation of an online learning school. Please note, this does not apply to community or nonpublic schools. An online learning school reflects a different model than the Remote Learning Plan that was authorized during the 2020-2021 school year. Also, the requirements for an online school include additional items, such as providing students with a free computer and internet access and using a learning management system to track student participation in online learning activities. Schools also need to track student off-line learning opportunities and have those opportunities checked and approved by teachers.

Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, districts that desire to do so can operate an online learning school as a separate school with its own Internal Retrieval Number (IRN). All students engaged in online learning must be enrolled in that school.

The decision to operate an online learning school is not a casual one. Creating such a school should be approached with a sense of permanency and longevity. An online learning school is not intended to be a transition strategy for a short period as the state continues to address COVID-19-related concerns.

The superintendent of a school district that already operates or is planning to operate an online learning school should notify the Ohio Department of Education of that fact by Nov. 29, 2021, and request that the school be classified as an online learning school. Superintendents should complete a School District Online Learning School Notification form and email it to: onlineLearning@education.ohio.gov.

Administrators are encouraged to read the text of Section 3302.42. It requires the State Board to revise operating standards for online learning schools, including revising student-to-teacher ratios; considering ways for all students, at any grade level, to earn credits upon demonstrating mastery of knowledge or skills through competency-based learning models; and requiring online learning schools to have an annual instructional calendar of not less than 910 hours.

Following are frequently asked questions regarding this requirement. Please email any specific questions about the requirements set forth in Section 3302.42 to onlineLearning@education.ohio.gov

Initial Considerations

NEW! - Temporary Online Learning or Closures Due to COVID-19 Outbreaks

Additional Considerations


Initial Considerations

    Can school districts operate an online learning model for the 2021-2022 school year?

    Yes. A school district, with the approval of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, may operate a school using an online learning model. Also, there is nothing in law that precludes a district from operating an online learning model in combination with other models of learning including Blended Learning.

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    Are all districts required to operate an online learning school for their students?

    No. This is a local decision based on the needs of the school community.

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NEW! - Temporary Online Learning or Closures Due to COVID-19 Outbreaks

    **NEW** Can an individual student temporarily switch to online learning due to COVID-19-related issues?

    Yes. A school may utilize whatever policy it has in place for the purpose of addressing short-term student illnesses or hospitalizations that require a student to be away from the school building. This may include temporarily (for the duration of a quarantine period or while the student is sick) placing a student into the district’s online school if the district has an online school.

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    **NEW** Can a classroom, building or entire district temporarily switch to online learning due to COVID-19-related issues?

    Yes, if the district has submitted a blended learning declaration to the Ohio Department of Education. Blended learning is the delivery of instruction in a combination of time primarily in a supervised physical location away from home and online delivery whereby the student has some element of control over time, place, path or pace of learning. Schools and districts that rely on a blended learning declaration to shift to remote learning due to COVID-19-related issues should ensure that they meet the legal definition of blended learning which requires that students are primarily participating in in-person learning over the course of the school year. 

    If the district has not submitted a blended learning declaration, the district may consider submitting a School District Online Learning Notification form by Nov. 29, 2021 and request that a school be classified as an online learning school. Online schools are designed for those students who are primarily learning in an online setting from their residences for the entire year. However, there may be situations that arise during the school year where student illness, injury or other extenuating circumstance may require a temporary online placement.

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    **NEW** What is the definition of “primarily” as used in the Blended Learning and Online Learning School definition?

    A student that spends a minimum of 51% of time at home engaged in online learning would be participating in online learning and a student that spends a minimum of 51% of time in school would be participating in blended learning.

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    **NEW** What happens if a classroom, building or entire district temporarily closes due to COVID-19-related issues?

    In a case of closure, the minimum number of instructional hours must be met for the school year. The flexibility that was afforded to schools by legislative action last school year to adopt a remote learning plan and be presumed to have met the minimum hours was limited to the 2020-2021 school year and does not apply for the 2021-2022 school year. Beginning Sept. 30, 2021, schools that implement a blended learning model must provide at least 910 hours of instruction per Ohio Revised Code 3302.41. Schools that do not implement a blended learning model must provide the minimum number of instructional hours required by Ohio Revised Code 3313.48. Community schools are still required to provide 920 hours of instruction, regardless of the type of educational model they use.

    In all cases, schools have a limited number of calamity days that they may utilize for temporary closures, including those related to a “disease epidemic” (see Ohio Revised Code 3313.482). If minimum hours are not met, then the classroom, building or district will need to make up those hours through extended hours or additional school days. 

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Additional Considerations

    What are the requirements for a city, local, exempted village or joint vocational school district operating an online learning school?

    A city, local, exempted village or joint vocational school district is required to do all of the following if operating a school using an online learning model:

    • Requirement (1): Assign all students engaged in online learning to a single school which the Department will designate as an online learning school.
    • Requirement (2): Provide all students engaged in online learning a computer, at no cost, for instructional use, with a filtering device or filtering software that protects against internet access to materials that are obscene or harmful to juveniles.
    • Requirement (3): Provide all students engaged in online learning access to the internet, at no cost, for instructional use.
    • Requirement (4): Provide a comprehensive orientation for students and their parent or guardian; prior to enrollment or within 30 days for students enrolled the online school.
    • Requirement (5): Implement a learning management system that tracks the time students participate in online learning activities. Implement a system to document off-line student learning activities with all participation records checked and approved by the teacher of record.

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    Can an Educational Service Center (ESC) operate an online learning model for the 2021-2022 school year? If not, can an ESC serve as a provider or contract for an online learning school?

    ESCs are not eligible to operate their own schools nor can they request an information retrieval number (IRN) to establish an online learning school. However, a school district may contract with an ESC to provide educational delivery of an online learning model that meets the requirements of the law.

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    Do districts need to notify the Department if they intend to offer an online learning model?
    Yes. For the 2021-2022 school year, if a district intends to operate an online learning model, it must notify the Department and request an IRN not later than Nov. 29, 2021. Schools should use this form to make this declaration: School District Online Learning School Notification Form.
     

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    Can a district implement both an online learning school and a blended learning model?
    Yes. A school district may implement both a blended learning model for some students and an online learning school for other students during the course of the year.

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    **NEW** In addition to online learning and blended learning, can digital learning (as defined by Ohio law) be an instructional delivery model for a remote learning pathway?
    Digital learning is a mode to deliver educational content that can be used to support online learning, blended learning or site-based, in-person learning. Digital Learning is not to be used in lieu of online learning schools as authorized in Ohio law

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    **NEW** From which school do students graduate, their home school or the online learning school?

    Students will graduate from the last school attended. A transcript will be generated that recognizes the name and IRN of the last school attended. A school district may name the online learning school to be aligned with a current high school name except that the online learning school will be designated as an online learning school. 

    Naming an online learning school is a local decision. There is no requirement to include “online” or “virtual” in the name of the online learning school.  

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    Does a city, local, exempted village or joint vocational school district need a separate IRN for an online learning model school?
    Yes. In the first year that the district notifies the Department that it intends to operate an online learning model school, it also must request a new IRN through the Ohio Educational Directory System (OEDs) to formally open the new school (see below for more information on establishing a separate IRN).

    An IRN will need to be established in OEDS and must include a primary address, contact information and principal assigned to the online learning model school. Only ONE IRN is necessary to provide an online learning school for K-12 students. Once established in OEDS the Department will review and approve the new IRN.
     

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    Do districts need to provide devices and filtering for students assigned to the online learning model school?
    Yes. The district is required to provide a computer/device for students who are participating in the online learning model school. Typically, filtering can be provided through the Information Technology Center (ITC) to which the district is aligned. If the school is not aligned with an ITC, then the district is required to provide filtering for student devices.

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    **NEW** Does providing a hot spot meet the requirement to provide internet service?
    Yes, if the hot spot provides access to the internet, learning management system and course content from the home location. Before issuing a hot spot, it is recommended that the district work with the service provider to determine that the quality of the service will provide the necessary access for students and families 

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    **NEW** Could the online learning school be a year-round model and still meet the 910 minimum instructional hours requirement?
    A school year is defined as July 1 – June 30. As long as minimum hour requirements are met, there is nothing to preclude year-round online schooling. 

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    Can a district offer its online learning model to students from other districts?
    The answer to this question depends on the district’s adopted open enrollment policy. Districts are encouraged to review their board-adopted open enrollment policy and to follow that policy regarding student enrollment in an online learning school.

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    Can the district use its current student information system to track time and attendance?
    Yes. Districts may use their current student information system, if that system is able to track attendance, participation, online learning activities (usually tracked based on specific interaction with the computer in use) and off-line learning activities. Schools should be prepared to show the daily, weekly and monthly accounting of learning opportunities a student participated in. Schools may count other classroom-based learning and non-computer, non-classroom-based learning opportunities, but these must be documented and certified by a teacher. Online community schools (e-schools) are subject to similar reporting and documentation requirements. The Department will develop a review process to ensure schools are able to substantiate learning opportunities through both online and other non-computer, non-classroom-based learning opportunities to support EMIS data reporting. Districts should review the community school FTE Review Manual for a more thorough description of the requirements related to documented learning opportunities.1

    1 The Department recommends reviewing pages 15-16, 19-21, and 47-48 of the PDF.

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    If a student transfers into an online school, is athletic eligibility impacted?
    The Ohio High School Athletic Association governs interscholastic athletic opportunities. District personnel should consult with the Association regarding athletic eligibility for students who transfer to an online school.

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    Will funding be reduced if students do not meet the time requirement of 910 hours?
    Yes. Students can generate full funding if they engage in at least 910 hours of instruction. This is a combination of logged online learning activities and appropriately approved time related to off-line learning activities. For students who engage in less than the minimum hours of instruction, the district will be required to reduce the student’s percent of time element in EMIS data reporting. This will have the impact of reducing the student’s calculated full time-equivalency (FTE) and the amount of funding the student generates for the district. The district should be prepared to provide evidence that supports the claimed engagement for each student.

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    **NEW** Does the 910 minimum hours requirement apply only to high school students?
    The 910-hour requirement applies to all students (K-12) enrolled in an online learning school. Beginning Sept. 30, 2021, schools that implement a blended learning model must provide at least 910 hours of instruction per Ohio Revised Code 3302.41. Schools that do not implement a blended learning model must provide the minimum number of instructional hours required by Ohio Revised Code 3313.48. Community schools are still required to provide 920 hours of instruction, regardless of the type of educational model they use.

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    **NEW** Who can be assigned to teach students enrolled in an online learning school?
    Each student must be assigned to a teacher of record. The teacher of record is required to track all online and off-line activities.  

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    Will there be state report cards for online learning schools?
    The online school will receive the same report card as all other schools operated by a traditional district.

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    If the district has an online learning school, is the district required to enroll a student in the online learning school at the request of a parent?
    The district is not required to enroll a student in the online learning school. Enrollment in the online learning school is a local district decision. Districts are encouraged to work with the appropriate district staff, as well as  the parent and student, to make important decisions about placement into educational programming, including the online learning school.

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Last Modified: 9/17/2021 7:56:11 AM

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