Athens City School District will be welcoming back students after the January closure of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, ECOT, by the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West. 

The Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, the sponsor of the ECOT, voted Jan. 18 to close ECOT as a result of lack of funding, according to Cleveland.com. Right before that vote, the Ohio Department of Education had rejected an offer that would keep ECOT, which had almost 12,000 students enrolled, opened until the end of this school year. 

The Athens City School District had the equivalent of almost 24 full-time students enrolled in ECOT, according to the district’s Jan. 16 school funding report. The closure of ECOT could bring those 24 students, and almost $179,000, back to the district. 

Superintendent Thomas Gibbs said the district would easily be able to accommodate those students.

“Even if all of those students showed up tomorrow, they would be spread over 13 grade levels,” Gibbs said in an email. “We'd have no trouble accommodating them in our classrooms and would be happy to do so.”

Athens City School District will feel less of an impact by the ECOT closure compared to other Ohio school districts, according to data collected by Cleveland.com. According to that data, Columbus City Schools had about 1,216 students enrolled in ECOT, and Cleveland Metropolitan School District had almost 818 students enrolled. 

Ohio Department of Education has advertised their “Find a School” option on its website to families affected by the ECOT closure. The option allows families to choose a county, and then it lists the local school districts and school options in those districts. 

Students may decide to enroll in other online community schools instead of transferring to schools in the district, Gibbs said. About 39 students who live in the district attend other online schools such as Buckeye On-Line School and Ohio Virtual Academy, according to the school funding report.

ECOT and the Ohio Department of Education have made headlines for lawsuits relating to state funding given to the online charter school over the past year.  

In December 2017, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected ECOT’s injunction or expedited appeal related to the school’s lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education. ECOT is trying to appeal the Ohio Department of Education’s decision to take back $60 million from the online charter school for unverified enrollment at the school in the 2015-16 school year, according to The Columbus Dispatch

Cleveland.com reported ECOT would have run out of money in March. As the Ohio Department of Education had rejected an offer to keep the school open, ECOT was running out of options of how to stay open for the rest of the school year. 

ECOT said it would appeal the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West's suspension so the school could reopen and stay open until June, according to a Jan. 23 news release.

@maggiesbyline

mc987015@ohio.edu  

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