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Area parents, students scramble as ECOT closes

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The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is no more, so the scramble is on for thousands of Ohio parents.

The embattled online charter school known as ECOT had some 12,000 students at the time of its closure Friday. This means public, charter and online schools are bracing for an influx of students.

“Districts and schools have already taken actions to streamline and accelerate their enrollment processes,” said Paolo DeMaria, the state’s superintendent. “We know the entire education community will come together with care and compassion in the best interest of these students.”

Jim Powell, North Ridgeville’s superintendent, said the district hasn’t received any calls from parents, but is proactively sending a letter to inform families of their options. The district has 30 students attending ECOT, with the majority in high school. While the district is open to them, the problem, Powell said, is if they all came back, North Ridgeville High School would need to hire more staff.

“(It’s) a large grouping in the high school, so that would be a pretty large influx into our district if they all came back — and then trying to provide for their varied needs,” he said. “A lot of them left the district and left public school in order to get different kinds of services. You have to worry about what kind of needs they have now.”

The district does offer Ranger Academy, which is a hybrid school option where students attend class a couple hours and the rest is online. Students also may qualify for special education and other services.

How quickly students can transition will depend on their needs and if additional programming and staff are needed. Parents should expect the letter early next week, Powell said.

Elyria Schools Associate Superintendent Ann Schloss said the district has had some inquiries throughout the past couple weeks. The district has roughly 150 to 175 students attending ECOT, with more than 100 of those in high school.

“We have a process for registration, usually once we get all their records it’s a pretty quick start,” she said.

Schloss said Elyria’s enrollment has increased recently, gaining 80 students after the holidays — some of whom were from ECOT.

“Whatever we need, we making sure we have,” she said. “If we need to increase teachers at any of our schools, we do it.”

Like North Ridgeville, the district also has a hybrid school option — Pioneer Academy.

Returning to public school can work for former ECOT students, said Sharon Draper, of Huntington Township.

Her son stopped going to ECOT this year and is now back at Black River High School.

“It was a good experience for him,” Draper said of ECOT. “He went back (to Black River) because he missed the interaction with his friends at school.”

While leaving ECOT was her son’s choice, Draper said she knew the charter school was facing turmoil and could close.

“I just didn’t know when,” she said. “… I do feel bad for the seniors. They worked hard all year long to get their diploma and they should at least let them finish up the year.”

There are other online school options, too. Elyria and Lorain also have a number of charter schools.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, Lorain County families have additional online options: Insight School of Ohio, Alternative Education Academy, Ohio Virtual Academy, Buckeye On-Line School for Success, Ohio Connections Academy, Akron Digital Academy, Greater Ohio Virtual School, Quaker Digital Academy and Treca Digital Academy.

Other families still may turn to home schooling, which offers freedom and independence, said Marcy Novak, of North Ridgeville. Novak home-schools her 12-year-old son and runs a group for home-school families in Lorain County. The group’s Facebook page, Homeschool Central (Lorain County), has seen 20 new members this week, she said. Novak doesn’t know if they are all ECOT families looking for information.

“We have a lot of freedom they don’t have with online school, and it impacts what we can do,” she said.

Novak said a lot of traditional home-school families start out as e-school families and make the transition when they feel trapped in the same way of traditional schools.

“It is very customized to what works best for the child and the family,” she said. “No one is more vested in how our kids do in school and what they get out of their education than us.”

Novak said parents can start home schooling their students by notifying their district’s superintendent’s office.

“From there, they are free to figure out what they want to do, what curriculum they want to use,” she said.

Novak said students have to do an assessment after the first year, but from there the freedoms are wide.

“It really is a different mentality,” she said. “There are no standards. No common core. We just have to teach our kids. And, we don’t close.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.



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