Whatever the future holds for classroom instruction in Ohio school buildings for the next academic year, Hilliard City Schools leaders are preparing a curriculum that would allow students to receive their education entirely online if their families choose.

For students in kindergarten through sixth grade, that curriculum will be derived from a collaboration with the Lakota Local School District in suburban Cincinnati.

“There is not an effective K-6 (online) curriculum in Ohio; we get to be the first, (and) it will be stronger if we do it together,” Superintendent John Marschhausen said.

When Gov. Mike DeWine on April 20 ordered Ohio’s public school buildings closed for the remainder of the academic year to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it was too soon to decide how schools would function in August, he said.

“If we have to do eLearning (remote education) next (school) year, we know we can’t replace face-to-face teaching, but we want to be able to offer a rigorous Hilliard education to all families,” Marschhausen said. “If we are open, we still need to be able to offer this to parents who are worried about the health of their kids and choose to continue eLearning. Collaborating with Lakota will bring more teachers to the table to create the most robust programming.”

Marschhausen and Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller have been acquainted for many years and are superintendents in similar districts, which lends to collaboration on projects, said Stacie Raterman, director of communications for Hilliard.

“They have also done presentations at state and national education conferences,” she said.

Beyond that, Hilliard and Lakota are the eighth- and ninth-largest districts in the state, Raterman said.

“Maybe 20 or so students separate us, and our population demographics are very similar,” she said.

Hilliard has about 16,800 students.

The districts also use the same online learning-management system.

“Both districts use Canvas, so as we build the curriculum, it can be easily shared on our learning-management platforms,” Raterman said.

The partnership is in the beginning stages of development, Marschhausen said.

“Our plan is to have our Hilliard teachers work with teachers from Lakota this summer to build K-6 online learning courses for our districts,” he said. “We want our teachers to build the curriculum so our students are getting the same quality education our community expects from Hilliard.”

Miller said the staff members from the respective school districts will create the best possible curriculum, and one that evolves.

“Both Lakota and Hilliard (City) Schools are fortunate to have educators who see the value in collaborating and sharing best practices in a time where that type of innovative thinking is more important than ever,” Miller said. “Our curriculum, technology and teaching teams are going to build a scaffold of robust virtual, digital and remote instruction that can be customizable by individual teachers to suit the needs of each class and student.”

The fruits of their labor will not be limited to virtual learning, Miller said.

“The resources will also be available for access for traditional classroom instruction, as well,” he said.

The other benefit is that the courses will be able to be refined and modified by “our exceptional educators,” Miller said.

“The curriculum will evolve and not be static, so our students will benefit from both districts continually improving the forward-thinking instruction,” he said.

The curriculum would follow the Ohio Department of Education standards, so approval from the ODE would not be required, Raterman said.