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Even if Ohio schools reopen, thousands of students in online ‘academies’ won’t return

Columbus Dispatch |

Across 16 central Ohio districts, 18% of the students — or about 37,000 of more than 202,000 — won’t return to physical classrooms this semester, regardless of whether schools say that they are allowed to come back, according to data provided by the districts earlier this month.

Kids in “academies,” a separate learning track from other district students, are committed to fully online learning for a set period, typically a semester or an entire school year. Formats can vary significantly among districts. Some, such as Pickerington’s, are operated completely in-house. Others rely on third-party, for-profit vendors that provide an online curriculum and, in some cases, additional teaching personnel to support students, with costs based on student enrollment.

Rates of participation in schools’ online academies run the gamut, from just 5% of students in Bexley and Grandview Heights to 8% in Worthington to 30% in New Albany, 32% in Dublin and Reynoldsburg and 45% in Licking Heights. Columbus City Schools, the state’s largest district, with about 50,000 students, has 7% of students participating in its academy.