Students and families, lawmakers, plead for ECOT deal; Kasich not getting involved

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Lawmakers, advocates, Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow staff, students and their parents are asking for someone to help them keep the online school open through the end of the school year.

State Representatives Andy Thompson and Andy Brenner, Jim Butler and Robert Sprague joined Chris Long, an activist with the Ohio Christian Alliance and Laura Beth McNamara, an assistant principal with ECOT, to ask for a resolution that would get kids back in school as fast as possible.

Their ideal solution would be if ECOT, the Ohio Department of Education could get together and come up with a deal to keep the school open. They suggest that Governor John Kasich should get involved in some capacity to ensure that the 12,000 students now without a school are taken care of.

Kasich’s office says that’s not going to happen because this is an issue the school and the Department of Education need to work out on their own. They also say that constitutionally there is nothing the governor can do to force anything to happen.

The advocates are concerned about all the students, but mostly for the 2,287 graduating seniors who now have no school to graduate from.

Some families on hand were complaining that they were having a difficult time finding a school to transfer too because the sheer volume of others all trying to do the same and a lack of space at some of the options they have.

The DoE sent a statement today when asked to respond to this story. In it they write:

“Thousands of Ohioans are visiting the Department’s website for information, and many others have called with questions. We’ve seen districts and schools across the state reach out to ECOT students to help. We also know thousands of ECOT students are smoothly transitioning to new schools, and we’ll continue to work toward helping all students find a learning environment that suits their individual needs.”

Long insinuated at the press conference that the DoE is not prepared or able to absorb all 12,000 students.

When asked for details on what a deal looked like and who would pay the costs to run the school, there were few solid answers and a lot of rhetoric about the responsibility we have to making sure the students get the education they need to be successful.

Brenner claimed that it is unlikely the state will ever reclaim the whole $80 million it is owed from ECOT if the school remains closed.

The group also argued that the actions of the DoE are a threat to school of choice.

They say it is the DoE fault that ECOT is in the position it is because of the retroactive application of a change to how Full Time Enrollees are counted; and that there is nothing in place to keep the DoE from making another change and demanding money back from other school districts.

How that threatens school of choice is a bit of a leap. They believe that the DoE could potentially continue to do this, effectively shutting down a type of schooling and thereby limit parents choices when it comes to schools.

Yes that is tenuous, but it is theoretically possible.

Ultimately, they just want the 12,000 students to get their education. But the fight over whose responsible for making sure that happens is still subject to a lot of finger pointing.

When asked if ECOT prepared the parents of their students for the possibility that their school may close with information in advance about how to transfer or where they could go, McNamara said anyone who asked was given the info.

If they didn’t ask the information was not shared.

Meanwhile, threats of their potential closure have been circulating for months, and some question why parents didn’t take the necessary steps to avoid being in this position before now.

The answer for some of those parents and their students is simply, they have few places they can go.

Elaine Stavropoulos’ daughter is a special needs student two classes away from finally graduating.

Her time at ECOT has been beneficial and the family praises what they have been able to do to get their daughter ready to graduate.

Now that the school is closed, however, they can’t find another school that will take a special needs child with two classes to go before graduation.

They are begging Governor Kasich to step in and do something.

He still says he cannot and will not.

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