On June 18, homeschool parents in Iredell County received an invitation from Iredell-Statesville Schools (ISS) superintendent, Brady Johnson, to attend a “community based meeting to discuss the idea of a partnership with the school system.” The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of “giving parents in Iredell County access to virtual charter school curriculum at no cost.”
I was able to attend the June 27 meeting at Statesville High School. I was pleased to see that homeschool group leaders Jodi Lenz, Marion and Eric Marcy, Charles Nettles and Lynne Taylor were in attendance. Also, at the meeting was the director of the North Carolina Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE), Dr. Chená Flood.
Even though the meeting was called to get homeschool parents input, it seemed to me that ISS had already decided to offer North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) courses to homeschool students starting in middle school. They offered three options.
The visiting students’ policy, as described on the NCVPS website, will allow a homeschool student to take one class in the ISS virtual school. Dr. Flood pointed out that the DNPE position on the homeschool statute is that the parents, a legal guardian or member of the household in which the student resides must teach core curriculum subjects of language arts, math, science and social studies. Other subjects such as art, band or foreign languages can be taught by someone who is not a member of the household. Based on DNPE’s position, the only subject that a middle school homeschool student can take in the ISS virtual school without being in violation of the homeschool law is foreign language. The tuition for taking one class ranges from $500 to $900 depending on the class.
If the student enrolls in two classes or units, he will give up his homeschool status because he will be classified as a public school student. Because the student is now a public school student, all instruction, books and other educational materials are free. The student will be able to get every class needed for a North Carolina high school diploma on-line except physical education.
The student can take three classes or units per semester. As with option #2 the student is now a public school student, but with three classes, there is potential eligibility for sports, clubs, etc.
Option #1 is a possibility for a homeschool student, but the cost is pretty high. Private schools may offer subjects for less, and there are other options such as computer programs and private on-line classes.
Options #2 and #3 would be appealing to homeschoolers who for one reason or another have decided to quit homeschooling. While the parents would no longer have control over what curriculum is taught and the method of instruction, the student would be able to take most classes at home on the computer.
Option #3 would be especially interesting to parents who planned to put their children back into public school in order to participate in sports, ROTC, marching band, etc.
The bottom line is this: if a homeschool student attends public school non-core classes (in a classroom or virtual), and he pays his own tuition, then he can still be counted as a homeschool student. If the state pays his tuition, then he is a public school student. While he is a public school student, he must meet the state scope and sequence requirements in order to graduate.
In addition to traditional academics, ISS offers vocational courses such as automotive technology, culinary arts, and Certified Nurse Assistant programs, so for families who have decided to quit homeschooling this is a good option for Iredell County residents.
For homeschool parents who plan to continue to educate their children at home, the ISS virtual public school is not a good option. Options for families choosing to homeschool through high school are: 1) the Career and College Promise dual enrollment program at a local community college for students age sixteen and up (the law allows homeschool students to take core subjects) and 2) The NCHE Athletic Conference offering competition in baseball, basketball, cross county, golf, soccer, swimming and volleyball.
One thing that was stated at the meeting is that virtual public schools are here to stay and they will definitely grow in the future. Each school district will decide if they will offer virtual classes to non-public school students, and I think most school districts will decide to invite homeschool students to participate. Maybe we should look this gift horse in the mouth.