WARREN — Area school districts are confident they can absorb Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow students recently left without a school after the online school closed.
ECOT closed Jan. 18 as a result of an ongoing fight with the state on alleged overpayments. Ohio officials have alleged ECOT students were not online enough hours to qualify for the per-student money paid to online and charter schools.
Ohio ordered the repayment of $60 million from the 2015-16 school year and the Ohio Department of Education is arguing ECOT also was overpaid by $19 million during the 2016-17 school year.
With the shuttering of their program, the parents of an estimated 12,000 students have been scrambling to find new schools. There are 117 ECOT students who have Warren as their home district. Nine students already have enrolled in Warren schools.
About 30 ECOT students are in Austintown, 20 in LaBrae and 80 in Youngstown.
Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca said the district sent out letters to ECOT parents in October saying they are welcome to enroll.
Youngstown began sending letters to ECOT parents last week. Warren City Schools has not done any active recruiting, but welcomes all students, officials said.
Superintendent Steve Chiaro said the district is expected to receive the academic records of all ECOT students assigned to Warren.
Parents have the option of enrolling their children in their home district or in another charter school.
Chiaro emphasized the district can easily absorb any ECOT student who enrolls. The influx of students will not require hiring of new employees because it has the room and staffing to take on the increased population, he said.
“Students would be placed in grades based on courses they’ve already completed,”Chiaro said.
If all of Warren’s students who were a part of ECOT register for the remainder of the school year, Chiaro estimates the district could receive $2,745 per student, which is about half of the annual per-student allotment. That would equal about $321,165.
Warren, like other districts, has its own online education program. It, however, does not allow students to be as independent as in the ECOT program.
Online students have to spend some time within the district, enabling teachers to work with them, monitor their progress and provide assistance.
“The district, prior to my becoming superintendent, had an online program in which students did not have to come into the district, but it did not work,” Chiaro said.
Students were most successful when there was interaction between educators and themselves, he said.
Colaluca describes Austintown’s online program providing distance learning while still being affiliated with the district.
“It is a combination of classroom and online course work,” Colaluca said. “We average between 100 and 150 students in that program.”
LaBrae Superintendent Anthony J.Calderone said the district has been in contact with half of its ECOT students and five are in the process of enrolling.
The Trumbull County Educational Service Center also offers the Trumbull Virtual Learning Academy, a hybrid option for seventh- through 12th-graders. The TVLA combines online course work with its on-site academic support. It has an instructor available during bi-weekly evening tutoring sessions at the educational service center’s computer lab.
“This program allows students to complete course work from home or receive instructional support twice a week in an open computer lab at the Trumbull County Educational Service Center,” said William Young, coordinator of TVLA.