In the recently enacted biennial budget bill (Am. Sub. H.B. 110), the Ohio General Assembly made a number of changes that affect Ohio’s schools. Among those are important changes to the ways schools can offer remote learning in the 2021-22 school year.

Blended learning (Aug. 31, 2021 deadline)

Blended learning was available as an option for school districts to offer remote instruction in the 2020-21 school year. Although H.B. 110 didn’t repeal blended learning, it did change what that term means.

“Blended learning” is now defined as “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.” The change is the addition of the word “primarily.” This means that, while a blended learning plan can include remote instruction, instruction must be delivered primarily in a location away from home.

The law also requires that schools that offer blended learning programs have an annual instructional calendar of not less than 910 hours. The former exemption from minimum school year or day requirements for blended learning programs has been removed from the law.

The Department of Education has prepared FAQs on blended learning, including how student engagement can affect district funding. If a district decides not to operate its existing blended learning model for any reason, it is required to rescind its blended learning declaration prior to Aug. 31, 2021.

Online learning schools (Aug. 1, 2021 deadline)

For districts that want to offer an online learning option, HB 110 created “online learning schools,” which are separate schools with their own internal retrieval numbers (IRN). If a district wants to offer an online learning school, it must:

  1. Assign all students engaged in online learning to the district’s online learning school.
  2. Provide all students engaged in online learning a computer for instructional use. The computer must have a filtering device or software that protects against internet access to materials that are obscene or harmful to juveniles.
  3. Provide all students engaged in online learning access to the internet, at no cost, for instructional use.
  4. Provide a comprehensive orientation for students and their parents or guardians.
  5. Implement a learning management system that tracks the time students participate in online learning activities and a system to document off-line student learning activities with all records checked and approved by the teacher of record.

The FAQs mentioned above also include information about online learning schools. Keep in mind that, if a district already operates or plans to operate an online learning school, it must notify ODE by Aug. 1, 2021, using ODE’s school notification form. The form should also request that the school be classified an online learning school.  

ODE has also prepared a remote learning pathway considerations webpage that discuss other alternatives for districts that would like to offer a remote learning option but cannot meet the requirements for an online learning school. While reviewing the webpage, bear in mind that it does not include online learning schools and has not been updated to include the changes to blended learning made by HB 110.

Posted by Jennifer A. Hardin on 7/28/2021