2017-2018 Sponsor Evaluation Process: Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Information

Please email any additional questions to Sponsor.Evaluation@education.ohio.gov

2017-2018 Sponsor Evaluation Process: Frequently Asked Questions

Please email any additional questions to Sponsor.Evaluation@education.ohio.gov

General Evaluation Questions

Quality Practices Component

Compliance Component


General Evaluation Questions

    1. Does the Department operate outside of Ohio Revised Code 3314.016 (B)(6), which requires all three components of the evaluation to be weighted equally?
    No. ORC 3314.016(B)(6) requires that all components be equally weighted. The business rules regarding the impact of a zero rating ensure that all components are equally weighted and are consistent with the statute.

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    2. Why can't a sponsor's Epicenter and the Department's Epicenter "talk" to one another?
    The Department provides Epicenter to all Ohio community school sponsors for the submission of documents for the sponsor evaluation. Sponsors are responsible for submitting all evaluation documents directly to the Department. Sponsors that use Epicenter to collect documents from their schools may reuse those documents directly through the Epicenter system to submit them to the Department. As the Department does not have access to this feature, you should direct questions regarding this functionality to the Epicenter support staff.

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    3. Can we submit a document in any format (i.e., PDF, Word, etc.)?
    No. Epicenter specifies the format(s) available for each submission type. Some submission types allow multiple file formats, while others do not. Sponsors can review the "Acceptable File Formats" section within each submission type to determine permitted file formats. Sponsors that have questions may contact the Office of Community Schools at (614) 466-7058 or Community.Schools@education.ohio.gov.

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    4. How will the Department ensure current contracts are available on the Department’s website and available for review by evaluators?
    The vendor will utilize Epicenter to access contracts for review. Please make sure that contracts, amendments, modifications and any other documents are uploaded by the deadline. Sponsors should contact their consultants if their contracts and associated documents are not on the Department’s website.

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    5. Can terms “governing board” and “governing authority” be used correctly and consistently. ORC refers to the sponsor board as governing board and school board as governing authority.
    The 2017-2018 quality practices rubric uses "governing board" when referring to a sponsor and "governing authority" when referring to a community school. The 2017-2018 school compliance worksheet uses the term “board” when referring to the school's governing authority.

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    6. Contract renewal will take place in December for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years. This year we are operating under our current contract. Since the December contract will be the newest contract in Epicenter, which contract should we use for documentation?
    The document submission deadline for the quality practices review is May 15, 2018. Contracts that are in effect during the 2017-2018 school year and submitted by this date will be included in the 2017-2018 quality practices review.

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    7. When will the list of selected schools for the 2017-2018 sponsor evaluation be available in Epicenter?
    The list of selected schools for the quality component of the 2017-2018 evaluation are available on the Department’s website here. The list of selected schools for the compliance component of the 2017-2018 evaluation will be posted following the June 29 submission deadline.

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    8. In a situation where the community school has included many of its board-approved policies in a school handbook, what serves as sufficient evidence of this?
    The sponsor should provide evidence that the policy was a part of the handbook when the handbook was approved. This evidence may include either signed meeting minutes or certified resolutions.

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    9. Can a sponsor request that all items be put into its task queue in Epicenter so it may work on them as time permits?
    For the compliance component of the 2017-2018 sponsor evaluation, sponsors will see the items in their task queues 60 days from the document submission deadline; for the quality component of the 2017-2018 sponsor evaluation, sponsors will see the items in their task queues 90 days from the document submission deadline. However, sponsors that want to begin submitting documents now may do so by accessing the items through the Compliance Center in Epicenter.

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Quality Practices Component

    1. Why aren’t we able to type our narrative directly into Epicenter instead of uploading memos?
    To ensure that all documents submitted by the sponsor, including the narratives, are accessible to the vendor conducting the quality reviews, the narratives must be uploaded in the same manner that any other evidentiary documents are uploaded into Epicenter. Narratives entered directly into the narrative field for any standards other than Standard C.01 (Contract Performance Measures) and C.02 (Contract Terms for Renewal and Non-Renewal) will not be considered. The exception was made for Standards C.01 and C.02 because there is no document upload for these two standards. Sponsors opting to upload narratives must use the narrative form provided by the Department, which is available as a resource document in Epicenter on 30 of the 32 standards.

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    2. Optional interviews: Will they be used in scoring?
    No, the interview will not affect or change the scores that a sponsor receives for the standards of the quality rubric. The basis of the score for each standard is the documented evidence that the sponsor provides. While the scoring process does not use the sponsor interview, sponsors can use this opportunity to share processes or updates that documentation does not yet reflect. While interview comments do not affect scoring, they may be included in the quality report.

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    3. Will any schools that were selected as the subset of schools in prior years also be selected in 2018? In other words, can a school reviewed during the 2015-2016 or 2016-2017 evaluation be selected again for review in 2018?
    Yes, this could occur. Schools are randomly selected each evaluation cycle from the sponsor’s entire portfolio.

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    4. According to the Glossary of Definitions, a “policy” is defined as a written course or principle of action adopted by a sponsor’s governing board. The terms “procedures” and “process” are synonymously defined as a series of actions or steps taken to carry out the board-adopted policy. Is every instance of the use of those terms in reference to a board-approved policy?
    Per the 2017-2018 Quality Practices Rubric, a policy is defined as a written course or principle of action adopted by a sponsor's governing board. Sponsors should read each standard carefully and provide the needed information based on the rubric.

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    5. Explain the difference between the narrative option for standards on the quality rubric and the narrative field box in Epicenter. When should I use each and for what purposes?
    Sponsors opting to provide a narrative explanation for one or more of the standards included on the quality rubric must upload the narrative into Epicenter using the narrative template provided by the Department. For two of the standards, C.01 and C.02, because there are no required document uploads for these standards, sponsors opting to provide a narrative explanation must enter the narrative in the field provided on each of those standards in Epicenter.

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    6. A.04 (Conflicts of Interest) – I'm a CPA and a treasurer of both the sponsor and the school. State law allows a treasurer to work for both the sponsor and the school. Why is this an issue?
    While state law allows for a treasurer to work for a sponsor as well as for the sponsor's community school(s), it is not a quality practice. The sponsor's enrollment and financial oversight responsibilities require that the school's governing authority and the sponsor's governing board review the school's fiscal reports.

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    7. A.04 (Conflicts of Interest) – With regard to the 3-point requirement, would you please clarify what the expectation of the requirement is? The sponsor’s enrollment and financial oversight responsibilities require that the school’s and sponsor’s boards review the school’s fiscal report. Is the expectation that sponsor staff sign a conflict of interest statement before starting any activity that falls under the definition of sponsoring responsibilities (as written in the Glossary of Definitions)?
    A quality practice would be that a sponsor’s board members, staff members and contractors each sign a conflict of interest statement annually. The conflict of interest statement should include the provision that individuals must disclose any conflicts of interest they have as they relate to any of their sponsoring responsibilities. A sponsor’s conflict of interest policy should require these individuals to disclose any conflicts of interest that they discover prior to carrying out their sponsoring responsibilities and specify what the sponsor will do after a conflict of interest is discovered and/or disclosed.

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    8. A.05 (Staff Expertise) – What constitutes an equivalent of a licensed school treasurer?
    School treasurer equivalents include CPAs, CFOs, comptrollers and business managers.

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    9. B.01 (Application Process, Timeline and Directions) – When does the planning period fall in the process? For example, does it occur prior to application, between application and approval, or between approval and the first day of school?
    The planning period begins once the sponsor notifies the school of approval.

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    10. C.01 (Contract Performance Measures) – Provide a definition of what constitutes a “mission-specific” performance measure.
    "Mission-specific" performance measures are those measures that are not typically captured by the more standard report card measures. Mission-specific measures are more aligned to demonstrate the progress or growth a school is making to reach its core purpose(s). For example, for a dropout recovery program, mission-specific performance measures could include job placement, military enlistment or postsecondary enrollment. For a school that specializes in performing arts, evaluating student projects or performances may be part of a mission-specific measure.

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    11. C.03 (Contract Amendment and Updates) – Is the Department asking sponsors to have a board-approved policy for reviewing changes in law to determine the need for contract modification?
    Yes. This is a quality practices review. The quality rubric is designed to evaluate quality sponsor practices, one of which is ensuring that sponsor governing boards are made aware of important policy and contract changes. Please refer to the Glossary of Definitions located at the beginning of the 2017-2018 Quality Practices Rubric for the definition of "policy" as it is used in the rubric.

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    12. D.07 (Annual Performance Reports) – Could the Department consider aligning the annual report due from sponsors on Nov. 30 with the requirements of the annual performance reports due for the sponsor evaluation?
    The annual report that sponsors provide to the Department by Nov. 30 is not necessarily the annual performance report that sponsors provide for their schools. The quality practices review evaluates whether the reports that sponsors provide to their schools exemplify quality practices as they pertain to site visit reports.

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    13. E.02 (Renewal and Non-Renewal Decisions) – Under the 2-point requirement, it should be up to the sponsor to determine whether the noncompliance issue is severe enough to deny a school renewal. For instance, should a school that does not have the correct size flag be denied renewal? Need to soften up that language.
    As a quality practice, sponsors should ensure that their schools are compliant with laws and the terms of their contracts when making renewal decisions. If an issue of noncompliance was identified during the preceding year, then sponsors should be working to appropriately address those contract issues, including seeking the advice of legal counsel, if necessary.

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    14. E.02 (Renewal and Non-Renewal Decisions) – Under the 3-point requirement, the rubric has the language “achievement targets.” Under the 4-point requirement, the rubric has the language “achievement standards.” What’s the difference?
    For the purposes of Standard E.02, the terms "academic targets" and "academic standards" mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

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    15. E.02 (Renewal and Non-Renewal Decisions) – The 3-point requirement states that the sponsor submitted evidence that it granted renewal to schools that either "achieve the academic achievement targets in their contract" or "are faithful to the terms of their contract." Does "achieve the academic achievement targets" mean all academic targets?
    Yes, “academic achievement targets” refers to all academic targets. Sponsors should be as clear and specific as possible in their contracts regarding what the academic achievement targets are for their schools. Setting extremely high or overly ambitious achievement targets could result in sponsors receiving fewer points on this standard if the school fails to meet those targets.

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    16. E.02 (Renewal and Non-Renewal Decisions) – How are you defining fiscal and operational viability? What does that mean?

    For the purposes of the sponsor evaluation, a community school’s fiscal and operational viability is based on the following indicators:

    • School cannot be in 'unauditable' status;
    • School cannot be in probationary, suspended or closed status;
    • School cannot have any unresolved findings for recovery (as identified on annual fiscal audits); and
    • School must have received an 'unqualified' opinion on the school's most recent annual fiscal audit.

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    17. E.02 (Renewal and Non-Renewal Decisions) – How are the two-point and three-point requirements of this standard being scored?

    To earn two points on this standard, the sponsor must:

    • Submit evidence that all schools up for renewal for 2017-2018 were required to submit a renewal application; and
    • Have granted renewal to one or more of its schools that met at least one of the following:
      • Failed to meet all academic targets;
      • Failed to correct fiscal and operational issues;
      • Has unresolved non-compliance issues with one or more laws or contract terms.

    For example, if a sponsor renewed a school that submitted a renewal application but only met six of its seven academic targets, the sponsor would receive two points.

    To earn three points on this standard, the sponsor must meet these three requirements:

    • Have only renewed schools that were fiscally and operationally viable;
    • Have only renewed schools that met at least one of the following:
      • Achieved all of their academic targets;
      • Are faithful to all non-academic terms of their contract, which includes compliance with all applicable laws.
    • Provide evidence-based renewal recommendations to its governing board.

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    18. F.02 (Legal and Policy Updates) – What if there are no changes in rule, law and/or policy that impact community school operations quarterly? Will sponsors still be required to provide a quarterly publication?
    A quality sponsoring practice is for sponsors to regularly update their schools on changes to rule, law and/or policy. In this situation, "regularly" is determined by the sponsor, whether it be monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, tri-annually or some other specific pattern of time. If there are no changes in rule, law and/or policy, a quality sponsoring practice would need to notify schools of that.

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    19. F.02 (Legal and Policy Updates) – Why was this changed from annually to quarterly when such updates are completed on an as-needed basis?
    Sponsors just need to demonstrate that they provide legal and policy updates on a regular basis. This may be semi-annually, tri-annually, quarterly or some other pattern of time that demonstrates that it occurs regularly.

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    20. Will the summer optional interview with a School Works evaluator be the same person who will be scoring our documents?
    Yes, the School Works evaluator who reviews a sponsor's quality review documentation also will be the person participating in that sponsor's interview should the sponsor choose to have an interview.

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Compliance Component

    1. How many compliance items will require documentation to be uploaded to Epicenter for schools that are selected?
    There are 258 school-related compliance items on the oversight of schools worksheet; 71 items require documentation to be uploaded. Additionally, the sponsor must upload the sponsor compliance spreadsheet and supporting documentation. There are 22 sponsor-related compliance items on the sponsor worksheet, one of which does not require a response from the sponsor (S-501) for the 2017-2018 evaluation. Twelve sponsor-related items require documentation to be uploaded. Sponsors that use Epicenter to collect documents from their schools may reuse those documents directly through the Epicenter system to submit them to the Department. As the Department does not have access to this feature, you should direct questions regarding this functionality to the Epicenter support staff.

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    2. Will sponsors be notified directly by the vendor of the exact date of the on-site compliance review prior to the visit?
    The vendor will notify each school prior to the on-site visit. The vendor will copy the sponsor on all communication regarding the on-site visits, which will occur in July and August 2018.

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    3. Is a sponsor required to verify that a school's policy meets statutory rule/rule requirements for what must be in the policy?
    Yes. Evaluators are trained to review all submitted documents and to rate items as compliant for those documents that meet statutory obligations.

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    4. What is the title of the worksheet “Laws and Rules” in Epicenter?
    For the 2017-2018 evaluation, there is one required worksheet for each school, one for closed schools and one for each sponsor. They are titled in Epicenter as follows:
    1. Compliance – Oversight of Schools Certification Worksheet (original worksheet – required for each school open during the 2017-2018 school year);
    2. Compliance – Closed Schools Supplement (limited items that apply to previously closed schools – required for each school closed prior to the 2017-2018 school year for which completed closing assurances have not been submitted to the Department);
    3. Compliance – Sponsor Item Certification Worksheet (sponsor items – required for each sponsor).

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    5. Who needs to upload the “Compliance – Closed Schools Supplement” worksheet in Epicenter?
    Sponsors must upload the Compliance – Closed Schools Supplement worksheet for any sponsored school that closed prior to the 2017-2018 school year and for which completed Closing Assurances were submitted to the Department during the 2017-2018 school year or have not yet been submitted to the Department.

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    6. There are many items that are not applicable for e-schools. Can they be removed from the rubric completely?
    No. For those items that do not apply exclusively to e-schools, the sponsor indicates the question is not applicable through its response to the compliance component question.

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    7. If a school submits a board-approved staff or student-parent handbook, is that sufficient evidence?
    The sponsor should provide evidence that that the policy was part of the handbook when it was approved. This evidence may include either signed meeting minutes or certified resolutions.

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    8. How is the compliance score determined? Please provide the formula/calculations on how scores are determined.
    The compliance component is scored based on the scoring structure outlined in OAC 3301-102-08, which is based on the number of compliance items that are not compliant (i.e., misses). Sponsors are evaluated for compliance with all their applicable laws and rules, including their obligation to monitor the schools’ compliance with laws and rules. For additional guidance on compliance scoring, review the 2017-2018 Sponsor Evaluation Technical Document found on the Department’s website here.

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    9. Can sponsors use their compliance spreadsheets from 2016-2017 as a starting point for 2017-2018?
    Sponsors can view previously submitted compliance spreadsheets and supporting documentation in Epicenter. The compliance worksheets are updated annually to reflect stakeholder feedback, provide clarification and to incorporate any legislative changes. Further, the logic formulas for the spreadsheets may change, meaning the document is not the same from year to year. For specific compliance changes from the 2016-2017 to the 2017-2018 sponsor evaluation, sponsors should view the change logs posted on the Department's website here.

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    10. Many of the policies are required in ORC. If the policy was submitted last year and has not changed, why does it need to be resubmitted?
    Policies should be reviewed and updated regularly to meet compliance requirements, as well as to reflect any changes in legislation. If you would like to “reuse” documentation that previously has been submitted against a new requirement, you must complete this task through Compliance Center ONLY. If you have additional questions on reusing documents, please contact the Epicenter Help Desk or your assigned consultant.

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    11. #S-601 – “Communication with Auditor of State.” Must the sponsor attend such meetings if the Auditor of State contracts with a third party?
    Yes. Even though the Auditor of State may contract with a third party to do this on his behalf, the sponsor should attend. Refer to ORC 3314.019 for additional guidance.

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    12. #S-609 – What is acceptable evidence of ensuring the evaluations were made available to parents?
    Sponsors are required to provide evidence that ensures evaluation results were made available to parents. For example, a sponsor may submit an example of the notice to the parents and a description of the process used. Please remember that sponsors should not submit student-identifiable information in any submission. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3314.023 for additional guidance.

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    13. #105 – What does evidence of the annual review and any changes to the policy look like?
    Sponsors should upload copies of the applicable board-approved school policies and evidence of board approval, as well as evidence of annual review/update of the policies, when necessary. This could include a reference in board minutes to the review. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3313.6012 for additional guidance.

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    14. #120 – I am unable to provide an answer for the second component question for this item. The cell is a protected cell.
    The Department created a submission type in Epicenter for sponsors to provide their responses. The submission type, Student Assessment Time, can be accessed under the Sponsor Compliance Review in Epicenter. This submission item applies primarily to sponsors that answered “No” for Compliance Question 1 on the worksheet. For sponsors that respond “No” to Compliance Question 1, please answer Compliance Question 2 by entering “Yes” or “No” as text for the narrative for this item. For sponsors that answered “Yes” to Compliance Question 1 and were certified Compliant for this item, please enter “Compliant” as narrative text for this submission.

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    15. #165 – What is considered “published information”?
    Published information could include a screenshot of a webpage, a digital or hard copy newsletter, planning guide and/or a regular publication provided to parents and students that is within the evaluation period. For example, a posting that is made after the 2017-2018 school year would not be considered. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3313.89 for additional guidance.

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    16. #200 – Does this need to be completed annually?
    This item will be disregarded for the 2017-2018 sponsor evaluation cycle.

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    17. #306 and #606 – Do these items require documentation?
    There is no required documentation for upload for items #306 and #606. Refer to ORC 2151.35 for item #306 and ORC 2313.19 for item #606 for additional guidance.

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    18. #504 – Does this item have to be in the contract?
    Yes. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3314.03 for additional guidance.

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    19. #620 – What is “temporary variance” from the Ohio BWC?
    ORC Chapter 4167 outlines the issuance process for a temporary variance.

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    20. #654 – Does this item apply only to a school just opened this year?
    No. This compliance item applies to all schools. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3314.02 for additional guidance.

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    21. #662 – Is the charter agreement sufficient evidence for this item?
    No. The community school also must submit a comprehensive plan in addition to the contract, which is expressly referenced in ORC 3314.03 (B).

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    22. #666 – Does this task require ALL the following documentation to be uploaded: evidence of a policy, training and disclosure statements?
    The Required Documentation for this compliance item has been removed for the 2017-2018 sponsor evaluation review cycle.

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    23. #703 – Not all students are enrolled by Aug. 1; therefore, a letter cannot be sent to parents prior to that date. Is documentation of the required information being sent sufficient or is it strictly by Aug. 1?
    The school must provide parents with required information regarding screenings prior to Aug. 1. For students enrolled prior to Aug.1, the sponsor should upload documentation to reflect that it provided the requisite notice. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3313.673 for additional guidance.

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    24. #755 – Are all health and safety policies expected to be reviewed annually?
    The school should periodically review its policies to ensure the safety of students, employees and other persons using a school building from any known hazards in the building or on building grounds that pose an immediate risk to health or safety. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3313.86 for additional guidance.

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    25. #776 – Does the evidence necessary for this item require a board-approved resolution or meeting minutes?
    Compliance items requiring board-approved policies as required documentation also should evidence approval of the policy. Sponsors should refer to ORC sections 3313.814, 3313.816 and 3313.817 for additional guidance.

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    26. #803 – Is there an approved or finalized Department document?
    Statute requires signatures from sponsor and district representatives. Sponsors should refer to ORC 3314.091 for additional guidance.

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    27. #804, #805, #806, and #814 (Transportation laws) – Does this include a city’s public transportation? Does the school have to have policies for each one of these or is the vendor policy sufficient?
    The items listed apply only to the portion of its student population for which the school provides transportation directly. This can be through school-owned buses or a direct contract with a transportation contractor. Sponsors should refer to ORC sections 3301.07, 3327.01 and 4511.76 for additional guidance.

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    28. #809 – Our school, not the local district, provides transportation for students; however, they do not request reimbursement from the state/Department for pupil transportation. Is the school responsible for ensuring a timely annual report of pupil transportation is filed?
    If the school, not the local district, provides transportation for any of its students, the sponsor should ensure the school files the annual report appropriately, places the school on a corrective action plan if it fails to do so, or uploads a memo to Epicenter specifically identifying why the item is not applicable.

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    29. #902 – Question 1 asks if the policy “identifies exceptions to the policy.” Clarification is needed if these “exceptions” are required even though it is not mentioned in ORC.
    An exception mentioned in ORC 3313.609 would be if the student’s principal and the teachers of any failed subject areas agree that the student is academically prepared to be promoted to the next grade level.

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Last Modified: 6/5/2018 2:36:41 PM