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Winter is Coming: The Demise of Blizzard Bags and Rise of Remote Learning

in Education, News

This is Part 5 in a Series of Legal Updates the Education Law Group will be providing on House Bill 33…

House Bill 33, the “budget bill,” signed into law on July 3, 2023, clarified numerous provisions impacting schools as they enter the 2023-2024 school year.  In this installment of our series, we discuss the budget bill’s requirement that each district adopt a plan, no later than August 1 of each school year, to provide online instruction during periods of school closure due to inclement weather or other circumstances.  While the law becomes effective October 3 (after the otherwise applicable August 1 date), the Ohio Department of Education “encourages” districts to adopt their amended plan no later than November 1, 2023.

HB33 requires each district to adopt a plan in order to make up hours due to closures for “disease epidemic, hazardous weather conditions, law enforcement emergencies, inoperability of school buses or other equipment necessary to the school’s operation, damage to a school building or other temporary circumstances due to utility failure rendering the school building unfit for use.”  The plan must provide for making up any number of hours, up to a maximum of the number of hours that equate to three school days.  Notably, however, that plan can no longer include “blizzard bags,” which now have been eliminated by the budget bill in favor of online learning.

With blizzard bag options frozen out as an option, the District must now set forth a “plan for completion of make up days via web access” that includes the following:

    • A statement that, to the extent possible, the school will provide teacher-directed synchronous learning in which the teacher and students are interacting in real time on a virtual learning platform during the closure.
    • Attendance requirements, including how student participation will be documented and how the school will reach out to students to ensure engagement during the closure.
    • An indication as to how equitable access will be provided to ELL students, students with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.
    • The process that will be used to notify staff, students, and parents that the school will be using online instruction during the closure.
    • Information on contacting teachers by telephone, electronic mail or a virtual learning platform.
    • A description of how the school will meet the needs of staff and students regarding internet connectivity and technology for online instruction.

    There is at least one significant hurdle in developing and implementing your preferred learning plan.  HB33 requires that the District’s plan must include the written consent of the teachers’ union.  Because the union’s consent is required, administration will need to consider how to best approach the union’s representatives to ensure compliance with the law.

    If you have any questions regarding the development or implementation of your District’s plan or any of the new House Bill 33 provisions, please feel free to reach out to any of our education law attorneys to discuss guidance and resulting recommendations.

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    Weston Hurd LLP attorneys regularly assist school districts in all aspects of school law. For further information please contact Eric Johnson at ejohnson@westonhurd.com or any of the education law attorneys