This is the first of a two-part story on the aftermath of ECOT's closure. Read part two here.
In the lower level of her Canal Winchester home, Anna Aquino helps her children with their school lessons. Her older daughter, 17-year-old Isabella is back in traditional school at Canal Winchester High, while Aquino homeschools her younger daughter, Trinity, who's in 7th grade.
Both girls were former students of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, also known as ECOT, before it suddenly shut down in January.
Isabella, a senior, takes just three traditional classes at Canal Winchester before heading home for online college courses. She uses her old ECOT computer to study sociology.
Isabella admits she misses the ECOT teachers.
“My algebra teacher, she was emailing me back like outside of my classroom and she was saying, like, ‘Hey, do you need any more help?" Isabella says. "She generally cared that she knew I was struggling in some areas for algebra, so she came back and followed up with me.”
Isabella thought she would be in an engaging classroom setting in Canal Winchester to study math, but then she found herself alone in front of a computer again.
“I thought I was missing social," Isabella said of her experience at ECOT.
Anna says overall, the district has been helpful. Isabella also takes choir and drawing classes at Canal Winchester in a more traditional classroom setting.
“Right away, Canal Winchester schools were great," Aquino says. "They have gone out of their way to make adjustments for her."
When ECOT closed, Aquino says she first considered another online charter school, but then she hired a tutor for Isabella.
“I never received a phone call," Aquino says. "I never received a letter saying ‘How are you doing? What’s going on?' As a parent, and as a taxpayer, I felt like they just kicked my children to the curb and they didn’t care.”
The Ohio Department of Education disagrees. In a statement, a spokesperson said students had several options to choose from. They could enroll in another community or charter school, including one that’s online; enroll in their district school; open enroll into another district; prepare for a high school equivalency test; enroll in a private school, or homeschool.
The department is still analyzing where former ECOT students transferred.
While Isabella is back in traditional school, her mom decided to homeschool Trinity. She’s invested $300 for books.
Aquino says it was a difficult adjustment, but now her 7th grader is thriving.
“I think that we have seen some amazing things with home schooling and home education," Aquino says. "I’m a writer and my husband is more artsy. We would have never discovered my child had this science bent at all, even at a normal school, we wouldn’t.”
Aquino says she values the educational experience her children received at ECOT. She just wishes state officials had not closed the school so quickly, even though an investigation needed to take place.
“It seemed to me that it was about shutting it down and making a point, more than my child’s education, and that’s where I have an issue with the state," Aquino says.