School-Building Closure FAQ

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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FAQ BACKGROUND: 

On March 12, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine made an unprecedented announcement ordering all of Ohio’s public, community and private K-12 school buildings to be closed to students due to the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. 

This FAQ document is intended to help school and district leaders think through important local-level decisions. It has been co-designed in partnership with Ohio’s major education associations and informed by some of Ohio’s most trusted and innovative school and district leaders. The FAQ will be updated on a regular basis throughout the coronavirus crisis


This FAQ was updated 7/9/2020

Question 8Question 9 and Question 12 were edited.
Questions 10 and 11 were removed as they are no longer applicable.

Key Questions


Key Questions

    1. At his March 12 press conference, Governor DeWine used the phrase “extended spring break” in his announcement. What exactly does that mean?

    Shortly after making the announcement, Governor DeWine further clarified that he ordered schools to be closed to students.1 Here is his full March 12 press release. On April, 20, 2020, the Governor extended the school-building closure through the end of the school year.

    On Saturday, March 14, 2020, Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order providing additional clarification. It explains: 

    • “All school buildings that provide any kindergarten through grade twelve instruction in the State of Ohio are to be closed to students. 
    •  …this closure does not include administrators, teachers, staff, vendors or contractors of a school. The administration of each school shall determine the appropriate level of access to the school during the closure. 
    • This order does not apply to and/or excludes activities or events at schools for voting, food services, housing of students at boarding schools, health services, charitable work, or any activity approved by the local health department.” 

    Governor DeWine’s actions are taken as part of the state’s strategy to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Minimizing the operation of places where large numbers of people congregate can contribute to this desired outcome. The Governor continues to promote healthy practices such as handwashing and encouraging social distancing to slow or limit the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus disease from person to person. 

    It is in this spirit that we urge school leaders to consider the following three principles when making local-level decisions regarding use of school buildings during this time: 

    1. Is use of the building essential? 
    2. Can the activity be done virtually? 
    3. If there is no other choice, then can the activity be done safely? This means that individuals are separated by distance and not congregating in close proximity and that the health of participants is protected. Consulting the local health department is advisable and encouraged. 

    Additional clarifications follow: 

    Continuing Educational Services 

    • On March 12, Governor DeWine said, “During this extended period of closure, schools should work to provide education through alternative means.” This statement indicates that schools should try to make a good faith effort within available capabilities to support continued learning outside of school. 
    • This could be done in a variety of ways including remote and/or online learning opportunities, depending on available options at the local level. It is understood that there are students and geographic areas that may not have access to technology-based options. 
    • Ultimately, the intent is that local school leaders, boards of education, governing authorities, and union leadership work in partnership to maintain continuity of educational services as much as practicable during this unprecedented health crisis. 
    • Administrators should be appropriately flexible in accommodating circumstances that may arise, including staff members who encounter child-care needs and challenges within their own families as a result of this crisis. Telework options should be explored whenever feasible. 
    • Schools should feel free to use blizzard bags for this purpose even beyond the normal three days. 
    • Schools that may not have included use of online learning as part of their plan to make up hours may, at this time, revise those plans to include online learning during the closure period. 
    • We recognize that attempting to track student attendance under such circumstances would be extremely complicated. Consequently, students will be deemed to be in attendance during the non-spring-break periods included in the ordered school-building closure. The Ohio Department of Education will provide additional guidance for coding student attendance in EMIS during the ordered school-building closure period. 

    Supporting Needs of the Whole Child 

    • Ohio’s schools provide important whole child supports including behavioral and mental health services, healthcare services, supports for students with disabilities and meals to many qualifying students. Ideally, these services should continue as much as practicable and delivered remotely or in ways that minimize creating gatherings. Consider the three principles identified above when making local decisions about school building use and congregating students. 
    • To help maintain meal services, on March 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted Ohio a waiver enabling Summer Food Service Program and National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option sponsors “to provide meals during an unanticipated school closure due to the novel coronavirus at both school and non-school sites and in a non-congregate setting.” This waiver allows for the distribution of meals while maintaining social distancing. 

    Supporting School Staff and Personnel 

    • School leaders are strongly encouraged to work closely with their local boards, governing authorities and union leadership to determine certified and classified staffing needs during this time. With regard to hourly employees, Governor DeWine’s intent is not to cause unnecessary disruptions to people’s lives. Hourly employees should continue to partner with their schools to support students and be paid consistent with Collective Bargaining Agreements or employee contracts. Employees should be flexible in the manner in which they contribute to the continuity of operations.
    • On March 30, 2020, Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton issued an amended order for the closure of all K-12 school buildings in Ohio. It specifies that the “closure does not include administrators, teachers, staff, vendors or contractors of a school. The administration of each school shall determine the appropriate level of access to the school during the closure, while promoting healthy practices such as handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, and encouraging social distancing. Telework options should be explored and encouraged whenever feasible.”  

    As Governor DeWine stated at his March 12 press conference, “Now is the time to pull together.”

    This answer was updated 4/23/2020
    1 Throughout this FAQ the word “closure” is used to reflect the concept of “closed to students.” 

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    2. Does the ordered school-building closure apply to internet- or computer-based community schools and e-schools identified in Ohio Revised Code 3314.013?

    No. The Governor’s ordered school-building closure applies to school buildings only. Internet- or computer-based schools should continue operations in their normal fashion according to their regular calendar. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    3. Does the ordered school-building closure apply to community schools that use a blended learning model?

    Yes. The Governor’s order would apply to the site-based portion of a blended learning model used by a community school. The school should, as much as practicable, use the online delivery component of the blended model to continue to provide educational opportunities for students. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    4. How does the ordered school-building closure affect minimum instructional hours required by state law?

    The Governor’s expressed intent is for schools to continue to provide educational services and learning opportunities to students through alternative means during this ordered school-building closure period. To that end, recently enacted House Bill 197 provides schools the ability to use remote learning hours toward minimum instructional hours requirements. The Governor and the Ohio Department of Education are committed to providing necessary flexibility to schools to minimize any additional financial burden for schools.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    5. How does the ordered school-building closure affect funding for traditional school districts and joint vocational school districts?

    Foundation funding for traditional schools and joint vocational school districts is not affected by the ordered school-building closure. Funding remains unchanged and will continue through FY20 and FY21 at levels equal to FY19 foundation funding. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    6. How does the ordered school-building closure affect funding for community schools and STEM schools?

    Given that schools are being asked to make a good faith effort to provide educational services within available capabilities, and that under these circumstances students are deemed to be in attendance, there is no need to make any adjustments to the manner in which community schools and STEM schools are paid. Additional guidance will be provided at a later time should circumstances change. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    7. How should community schools handle the 72-hour auto-withdrawal requirement?

    The 72-hour rule applies when a student is absent “without legitimate excuse.” The Governor called for schools to close to students, but he advocated for the continued provision of educational services. 

    We recognize that attempting to track student attendance under such circumstances is very challenging. Consequently, students will be deemed to be in attendance during the non-spring-break periods included in the ordered school-building closure period. Please refer to the Automatic Withdrawal of Students on the Community Schools and Sponsors COVID-19 resource page for more information.

    This answer was updated 5/14/2020

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    8. Must Ohio Department of Education-licensed preschool programs be closed?

    No, as of June 9, 2020, all preschool programs licensed by the Ohio Department of Education had the option to reopen. This includes programs that operate in schools as well as those operated in other facilities (including, but not limited to, programs operated by Educational Service Centers). More information, including links to rules for reopening, is provided here.



    This answer was updated 7/9/2020

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    9. Must Ohio Department of Education-licensed school-age child care programs be closed?

    No, as of June 9, 2020, all school-age child care programs licensed by the Ohio Department of Education had the option to reopen. More information, including links to rules for reopening, is provided here.



    This answer was updated 7/9/2020

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    12. Do schools need to lock up playgrounds?
    No. Schools do not need to chain or lock up playgrounds, but be advised, that public access playgrounds may increase the spread of COVID-19.

    This answer was updated 7/9/2020
     

     

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    13. What options are available to provide remote learning—especially if internet or devices are not available?

    Options will vary depending on circumstances, and in some cases, there may be no viable options for online instruction. Cell phone service or internet service are the usual requirements for e-learning. We have confidence in the creativity and flexibility of our educators to work together and with community partners to provide what makes the most sense in these situations. At the very least, identifying local resources, encouraging reading and writing practices during the ordered school-building closure period, and other enrichment activities can be conveyed to students if no other options available. Schools may establish “pick up and drop off” points as may be appropriate for access to instructional materials, being careful not to create conditions that result in students congregating together at one time. We encourage schools to partner with Educational Service Centers (ESCs) and Information Technology Centers to seek solutions regarding remote learning. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    14. How will the ordered school-building closure affect testing?

    The Governor and the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 197 to address several issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation removed state testing requirements for Ohio students for the Spring of 2020. In addition, the Ohio Department of Education has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for all federally mandated student testing for the Spring of 2020.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    15. What is the status of the Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD), Ohio English Language Proficiency Assessment (OELPA) and the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT)?

    The Governor and the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 197 to address several issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation removed state testing requirements for Ohio students for the Spring of 2020. In addition, the Ohio Department of Education has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for all federally mandated student testing for the Spring of 2020.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    16. Will state testing be available during the ordered school-building closure?

    No. State testing will not take place during Ohio’s ordered school-building closure. The Student Testing Site, Test Administrator (TA) Interface and the Data Entry Interface will not be accessible starting March 17.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    17. What does the ordered school-building closure mean for Ohio School Report Cards?

    The Governor and the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 197 to address several issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation states that the Ohio Department of Education will not produce Ohio School Report Cards for the 2019-2020 school year. Instead, the Ohio Department of Education will publish only the information that was available prior to the ordered school-building closure.

    Additionally, the Ohio Department of Education is committed to working with the U.S. Department of Education to seek relief from requirements for state accountability systems.



    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    18. What about career technical education centers? Will students and teachers be able to access the buildings?

    During the ordered school-building closure, career technical education centers will not be open to students. However, the closure does not include administrators, teachers, staff, vendors or contractors of a school. Per the order from the Ohio Department of Health, “The administration of each school shall determine the appropriate level of access to the school during the closure.” 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    19. Are students still permitted to work as part of apprenticeships, internships, etc. that are supervised by the school?

    In some cases, it might be appropriate if the student’s work-based learning experience is safe and is attentive to social distancing (i.e., the student interacts with very few other people). It may also matter if the student is actually an employee of the business. Ultimately, this is a local decision that should be made in partnership with the student, parents and/or caregivers, school leadership and the employer.

    This answer was amended 5/21/2020

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    20. Career technical education centers also provide adult education through their Ohio Technical Centers. Is it permissible for career technical education centers to allow adult students on site for instruction?

    The ordered school-building closure does not apply to Ohio Technical Centers which serve adults. As such, schools should make their own determinations about the continuing operations of these programs. Schools may want to consider distance learning options to the extent practicable. Schools should also be attentive to the Governor’s emphasis on social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    22. Should schools provide related services and intervention to students with disabilities if they are offering some form of instruction during this ordered school-building closure period?

    Yes. The school should make a good faith effort to provide such services. If instruction is offered to all students, including alternate delivery models like online learning or distance learning, then districts are required to provide students with disabilities special education services. If, however, a student with a disability cannot access the alternate delivery models being offered to general education students, then the district should consult with parents and/or caregivers to determine the needs of the student and identify the most appropriate means for meeting those needs during the ordered school-building closure period. In the interest of community health, districts should take steps to identify the most appropriate location for delivering those services, such as a daycare, home or other location. Compensatory services might need to be considered. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    23. Should ESCs or districts send itinerant staff to provide specialized services in daycare (and in a child’s home if applicable)?

    If necessary and safe to do so, yes. The ESC should evaluate the health risk to students and educators by the continuation of these services versus the temporary suspension of such services. The district should consult with the parent to determine the best and safest location to offer services. Those services could take place in the home or another location mutually agreeable to the family and district with due consideration to the health of educators and students. Compensatory services may need to be considered.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    24. Can ESCs keep open their central offices?

    Yes. All precautions should be taken to minimize health risks of central office staff, including consideration of telework options and social distancing practices.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    25. Can medically fragile students be provided services through home instruction?

    The school should consult with parents and/or caregivers to determine the needs of a medically fragile student specific to the ordered school-building closure. Together, they should identify the services that will best meet those needs and how those services will be delivered with due consideration to the health and safety of students, families and service providers.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    26. Will timelines be altered related to Evaluation Team Reports or Individualized Education Program plan development? Can IEP meetings occur virtually?

    The district should act in good faith to support the needs of students with disabilities during this challenging time being attentive to the health and safety of students, educators and other service providers. The Ohio Department of Education’s goal is to provide maximum flexibility regarding regulatory compliance requirements in the context of this emergency. The Ohio Department of Education is pursuing clear guidance from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Special Education Programs relative to such flexibility. The district should notate exceptional circumstances as appropriate. 

    This answer was added 3/15/2020

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    27. What about teacher evaluations?

    The ordered school-building closure affects educator evaluation systems. Specifically, this impacts decisions around completion of 2019-2020 educator evaluations and implementation of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) 2.0. The Ohio Department of Education has provided information about updates to this system here.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    28. What should I do if I am unable to complete my college or university’s clinical experience requirement (student teaching, field experience, or internship) as a result of Ohio’s ordered school-building closure?
    The Ohio Department of Higher Education and Ohio Department of Education are working with Educator Preparation Programs to create more flexible pathways for students to complete their clinical experience requirement.  Please contact your college or university and work with your Educator Preparation Program to determine your pathway for completion.

    This answer was added 3/19/2020

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    29. What about graduation?

    The Governor and the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 197 to address issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation states that Ohio students who were on track to graduate at the time of the ordered school-building closure will be permitted to graduate on time in the Spring of 2020.

    This answer was added 3/31/2020

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    30. How does this ordered school-building closure affect 21st Century Community Learning Center programs?
    A variety of activities that are part of 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs can continue. Activities must be in support of program goals and directly related to program effectiveness and student achievement. A list of appropriate activities can be found on the 21st Century Community Learning Center site along with additional questions and answers about the program.

    This answer was added 3/20/2020

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    31. What considerations should schools and districts make when determining which employees should report to a school building during the ordered school-building closure?
    The Governor has strongly encouraged the use of remote work assignments whenever possible, and only requires employees onsite who cannot perform their job duties remotely. (Even for these employees, no one who is ill or may have a health condition that makes them particularly susceptible to illness should be required to report to work. Sick leave requests should be honored).

    This answer was added 3/20/2020

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    32. May a contracted or mandated provider of education services (for example, district, educational service center or community school) continue to provide educational services to school-age children residing in the following settings: a) A residential group home or other residential group arrangement (including those that may be court placed); b) A local or county juvenile detention facility?

    The ordered school-building closure does not mean residential facilities that are caring for school-age children nor juvenile detention facilities must close. These facilities are serving students primarily for other reasons (not primarily educational) and are not schools per se. At the same time, in the interest of slowing any spread of disease, extreme caution should be exercised to preserve and protect the health and safety of students and staff in these facilities, as well as educators and the community. Education providers and facility operators should evaluate these situations considering the following three principles:

    1. Is the nature of the activity essential?

    2. Can the activity be done virtually?

    3. If there is no other choice, then can the activity be done safely? This means individuals are separated by distance and not congregating in close proximity and the health of participants is protected.

    Consulting the local health department is advisable and encouraged.

    (Note that juvenile and adult correctional facilities were separately ordered to restrict access to their facilities to “personnel who are absolutely necessary for the operation of such facilities.”)

    Just as with other students, a good-faith effort to provide continuity of service to students in these facilities would align with the governor’s stated intent that “schools should work to provide education through alternate means.” Consequently, education providers should collaborate with facility operators to identify alternate means to provide educational services to the extent practicable. This could include a blizzard bag approach, distance learning options, closed-circuit TV or mail. As much as possible, sending educators to be physically present with students in such settings should be avoided.

    This answer was added 3/23/2020

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    34. How can students go about obtaining a work permit under Ohio’s Minor Labor Laws if schools are closed?

    According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, if a minor has all necessary paperwork completed and is unable to get the permit processed due to school closure, the completed paperwork may itself stand in the place of the physically printed permit. Employers should keep the paperwork on file, just like they would the permit. The formal permit should be processed as soon as the school is reopened.

    As a reminder, hour restrictions outlined in Ohio Revised Code Section 4109 are still in place for any week that was not a pre-planned school holiday (i.e., spring break) and the prohibited/hazardous occupation restrictions are still active. 

    To download a copy of the Parent or Guardian Consent Form for Minor Work Permit, click here .

    For questions, call the Division of Industrial Compliance's Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration at 614-644-2239 or email webmaster@wagehour.com.state.oh.us.

    This answer was added 3/26/2020

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    35. How does the ordered school-building closure impact participation in the College Credit Plus program?

    At the recommendation of Chancellor Randy Gardner and Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria, previously existing statutes, rules, and guidance relating to the College Credit Plus (CCP) program have been updated in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and subsequent school-building closures. These updates attempt to provide as much flexibility as possible for students while continuing to implement the CCP program. We recommend reviewing posted informational documents as there are important changes to the program. Visit the following College Credit Plus web pages for the latest updates and information:

    http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-Education-Options/College-Credit-Plus

    https://www.ohiohighered.org/collegecreditplus

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    36. Should schools and districts consider shortening the school year or ending school early?
    No. When Governor DeWine ordered school buildings to close temporarily, it was with the expectation that a good faith effort would be made to continue providing education services to students through the end of the district’s school year as scheduled. This is the understanding under which the vast majority of school districts are operating. They are planning on observing their originally adopted calendars and ending the school year (either virtually or in house depending on guidance from state and local departments of health) pursuant to their original timelines. Schools and districts should not be considering shortening the school year. 
     
    Students benefit from efforts to provide continuity of learning knowing their teachers and school staff are connecting with them and supporting them through this challenging time. Staff also benefit from the continuity of purpose in their efforts and their abilities to connect professionally with colleagues to support the needs of the whole child. The ability for educators to continue to work until the end of the adopted calendar also can contribute to the development of plans for recovery efforts that might be necessary to ensure a strong start to the 2020-2021 school year. Although remote learning is not the same as in-school learning, and varies greatly across Ohio’s diverse landscape, sustaining educational activities emphasizes the importance to students of acquiring and strengthening knowledge and skills as a regular part of daily life.

    This answer was updated 4/23/2020

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    37. How does H.B. 197 affect the requirements for the academic assessment report for the 2019-2020 school year from a parent of a home-school student making a subsequent notification as required by rule 3301-34-04 of the Ohio Administrative Code?
     

    For Districts and Superintendents: Section 17(L) of H.B.197 prohibits a school district from requiring the parent of a home-school student to submit the results of a “standardized achievement assessment” as a condition for continuing to provide home education to a student. This prohibition reflects the reality that assessments (e.g., nationally normed, standardized achievement tests, Ohio state tests) could not be administered in the spring of 2020 due to public health orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent with the legislation, and irrespective of a parent’s previous assessment reporting choices, if a parent indicates that he or she is unable to submit either the “results of a nationally normed, standardized achievement test” (OAC 3301-34-04(B)(1)) or an “alternative academic assessment of the child's proficiency mutually agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent” (OAC 3301-34-04(B)(3)), the superintendent should not require an academic assessment report from a parent and should issue a letter of excuse as long as all other information submitted to the superintendent is determined to be in compliance with regulatory requirements.

    For parents who choose to demonstrate a home-school student’s achievement through a written narrative (OAC 3301-34-04(B)(2)), a superintendent should evaluate the written narrative by taking into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the student’s academic progress for the 2019-2020 school year. In accordance with the authority in section 17(I) of H.B. 197, the Superintendent of Public Instruction has extended the deadline in Ohio Administrative Code section 3301-34-04 to submit the written narrative for the 2019-2020 school year. The extended deadline to submit the written narrative is December 1, 2020. A superintendent should issue a letter of excuse that specifies the narrative will be provided by December 1, 2020.

    (This information will be updated if additional changes are made to home school subsequent notification requirements by either the State Board of Education or the Ohio General Assembly.)

     

    For Parents: Section 17(L) of recently enacted H.B.197 makes a short-term change to reporting requirements for parents of home-schooled students for 2019-2020. Typically, parents must submit to the local superintendent, at the time of subsequent notification, an academic assessment report for the child for the previous school year. The report can be in one of three formats: the results of a nationally normed, standardized test; a written narrative indicating that a portfolio of samples of the child’s work has been reviewed by a specified individual and that the child’s academic progress meets the child’s abilities; or an alternative academic assessment of proficiency mutually agreed upon by the parent and the superintendent.

    Section 17(L) of H.B. 197 exempts the requirement to provide the results of a “standardized achievement assessment” to the resident district as a condition of the district continuing to allow the student to be home schooled in the 2020-2021 school year. This exemption applies to the first and third of the three options (OAC 3301-34-04(B)(1) or (B)(3)). Parents should express to the superintendent of their school district of residence that they are exempted from the requirement due to the inability to have students tested.

    Parents who choose to utilize the written narrative option (OAC 3301-34-04(B)(2)) may use remote or virtual methods to obtain the written narrative so as to avoid any risk to the health or safety of students or others involved in the process. Additionally, the deadline to submit the written narrative has been extended pursuant to authority granted to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (H.B. 197, Section 17(I)) until December 1, 2020. District superintendents have been instructed to issue a modified letter of excuse that indicates the narrative will be provided by December 1, 2020. Upon the receipt of the narrative, and if the narrative complies with regulatory requirements, the superintendent may issue a permanent letter of excuse for the current school year.

    (This information will be updated if additional changes are made to home school subsequent notification requirements by either the State Board of Education or the Ohio General Assembly.)


    This answer was added 5/8/2020

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Last Modified: 7/9/2020 3:04:22 PM