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Former employee hopes deal can be made for ECOT to finish school year

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) - A giant online Ohio charter school -- ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) closed last week, right in the middle of its school year. A former employee feels there has to be a better solution than leaving students without a school.

Kelly McCormick has been with ECOT for ten years. She taught fourth grade, spent the bulk of her time as an instructional supervisor and then became a student support specialist -- all from her home.

It's been hard for her to see complaints about the closing.

"ECOT closed, ECOT left us in the dark, ECOT did this to us, ECOT shut down our computers," she said. "Those things simply aren't true."

McCormick has been in charge of tracking truancy -- making sure students are online five hours a day, five days a week for education.

ECOT is challenging how the State of Ohio tallied student participation to determine the publicly-funded e-school was overpaid.

"We had clean audits for 13 years. All of a sudden in March, they said, 'Starting in August, you need to track the duration that each student is logged in,'" McCormick said.

ECOT is fighting to reopen as the state tries to recoup the money. It believes ECOT owes close to $80 million.

There's a showdown three weeks away in court.

"The decision will be made -- do we get to pay the money back or will ODE [Ohio Department of Education] actually owe us money?" McCormick said.

When ECOT closed last week, nearly 3,000 seniors were close to graduating. McCormick is hopeful that a deal can be made to reopen so ECOT can finish the school year.

"We were able to take students who were on the verge of giving up or on the verge of dropping out, and give them a different option and give them hope in graduating," she said.

ECOT has graduated 22,000 students over the years. Right now, the 12,000 who were enrolled when it closed need to find a replacement school as soon as possible.

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