by Diane Helfrich, July 2022

Out in Facebook-land, I’ve recently seen a flood of questions about DNPE contacting schools open longer than seven years. So, it’s time for a bit of background and encouragement for everyone to update their files on a yearly basis.

The Background

We’ve known the DNPE database has had inaccuracies for a long time, primarily because people forget to close their schools when they are finished homeschooling or move out of the state. When people move within the state, they fail to log in and update their addresses. As a result, when DNPE sends out any mailing, the number returned with “undeliverable” is staggering. Once DNPE improved online accounts for administrators, they encouraged everyone to update their files annually. 

Knowing that many people have not closed their schools or updated addresses, for the past couple of years, there has been an effort by DNPE to clean up the data. Notices went out to people with schools open longer than seven years with no updates to their DNPE files. They received notices that their schools could be closed if files were not updated; some people found their schools unexpectedly closed. These notices tended to go out regionally because DNPE had a small staff working hard to support home and private schools.

Fast forward a bit to last fall. DNPE requested funding from the NC General Assembly (GA) for a database server because the capacity was too small, especially given the number of new schools opened during COVID. The reported growth was significant enough to prompt questions from the GA. Not surprisingly, when the GA found out the database was inaccurate, they started asking more questions, which brings us to today.

The Current Status

In the budget bill currently before the GA, DNPE is now required to gather a significant amount of data about homeschools to help the GA know the picture of schools opened during COVID and subsequently closed, numbers of homeschooled students by grade, etc. Money has been given to DNPE to hire temporary help to work on the database. This funding is not for the needed new server. There are plans to contact every homeschool that has not updated the database with current enrollment and test information (date and type only). How and when this might begin is not yet clear, but there is pressure for DNPE to be able to accurately report data to get the funding to handle more homeschools. Homeschools that have been open for seven years or more and haven’t contacted DNPE in the past three years will receive an email request to update their records or to call DNPE to confirm that the homeschool is still operating. DNPE will use email, US mail and the telephone in an effort to contact homeschools. If DNPE is unable to get a response from the homeschool administrator, the school will be closed.

What You Need to Do

First of all, don’t panic! It is appropriate for the GA to expect reasonably accurate data according to the law. It is also proper to have good information when increased funding is requested to give a more precise picture of the homeschooling community.  Update your file as soon as possible, and then review and update your data every year from here on out. A good time to update your file would be when you have completed testing for the year. If you are finished homeschooling in NC, by law, you must close your school; please do so immediately if you haven’t already.

DNPE has begun to ask that you enter your testing information into your online records. While this requirement is not spelled out in the law, NCHE recommends that you provide this information. They do not want to see your scores—only confirmation of completion. Think of it in terms of an online inspection. If you add the test used and the date (never put the scores in), then, DNPE knows that you did, in fact, administer a test and are therefore legally continuing to homeschool. It’s nothing new and nothing you aren’t already required to have for DNPE.

If your school was closed by DNPE when you are still actively homeschooling, contact DNPE, and they will be happy to help you get it reestablished. It will be helpful if you have two to three years of test scores to show continuity and give credence to the fact that you have continued to homeschool. Minimally, you should have the last test results by legal requirement.

If we all do our part to keep the data current, there is less reason for increased scrutiny regarding the homeschooling community. It’s an essential part of our roles as school administrators. Let’s all work together to keep NC one of the best states for homeschooling! 

Diane Helfrich is a retired homeschooler of fourteen years. She and her husband David have two children that have both gone on to receive graduate and postgraduate education. Now, she serves as the NCHE Development Director and enjoys cooking, reading, and playing ukulele in her spare time.

Cover image by Pexels from Pixabay.