Online community school ‘closing doors’ after 15 years

By Casey S. Elliott - [email protected]

Urbana City Schools’ online community school will close June 30.

The school board approved a joint resolution for the closure at its Tuesday meeting. The Community School board of directors approved it at its April board meeting.

The community school, an online dropout recovery school, has been in operation since 2002, Superintendent Charles Thiel said previously. A list of new state requirements for community schools was a main driver for its closure, he said Tuesday.

“It’s just too much for us to manage,” he said.

Thiel said the state has a list of over 300 compliance requirements the district needed to check off for the community school, with many of those requiring documentation. The work was too much for staff to accommodate, he said.

The community school was cited in Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s report on charter school attendance in 2016. The report forwarded the community school to the Ohio Department of Education for review as one of three with dramatically fewer students than claimed.

Thiel said at the time he believed a misclassification of the school brought about confusion at the state level. The school has always been online only, but was never listed in the education department’s list of e-schools. A November 2015 head count noted there were no students in attendance in class, which brought about the citation from the auditor.

The district had changed how data was reported at the school a few years ago to more accurately appear on the district’s state report card, and Thiel said that change may have brought up the confusion. Also at issue was potential over-payment of state funds to support brick-and-mortar community schools. That issue would likely be resolved through the school closeout process, he said.

Thiel said Tuesday the auditor’s report was a factor in the decision to close the community school, but the main reason was the new state requirements for monitoring and accountability.

The community school currently serves 42 students, Treasurer Mandy Hildebrand said. Parents were notified of the school’s potential closure previously.

The community school was at the end of its current sponsorship agreement, which also made it a good time to close the books, Thiel added.

The high school recently began using an online curriculum program allowing students to do credit recovery and electives at the high school, and this can serve as a substitute for the community school, Thiel said. He added he expects the district will lose some students to other online schools.

By Casey S. Elliott

[email protected]

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.