BOE could allow homeschoolers to attend middle school part-time

Published 5:34 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Polk County homeschooled students in grades six-eight could soon take advantage of programs such as art, band and choir through the county school system.
Superintendent Bill Miller introduced the idea of changing the system’s current dual enrollment policy for homeschooled students during the Polk County Board of Education (BOE) meeting Jan. 9.
“We’re a small place and we try to accommodate people because they are taxpayers, too,” Miller said. “In the end we believe this is a good policy for our system because it does show the parents and students what our schools are all about and potentially encourages them to consider sending their children full-time.”
The Polk County school system currently allows high school-aged homeschooled students to take two elective courses through Polk County High School. Doing so designates the students as part-time and allows the system to cover the students under its insurance. It also ensures the students fall under the system’s rules and regulations regarding things such as behavior and dress code.
The Polk County BOE first adopted the high school policy in April 23, 2007. Since then, Miller said, an average of five students have taken advantage of the policy each year.
Polk County High School Principal Mary Feagan said at the high school level this gives those students access to courses, in the fine arts particularly, that might not otherwise be available to them.
“It seems to work fine and I think we’ve been successful with the program,” Feagan said. “The students who take advantage of the policy typically come back and do it from one semester to the next.”
Now the system has received a request from a family that the policy be opened up to include middle schoolers, Miller said.
Peter and Alison Shanahan approached the BOE at its November meeting to request the change because they’d like for their own middle-school-aged daughter to be able to participate in electives such as band.
“There are certain things you really can’t do in homeschool like participate in band,” Shanahan said. “For my mind, I like my children to go to high school at a certain point…. Putting them in the band allows them to get adjusted and make friends. It’s also a good thing to access the arts. I’m a big believer in making sure your kids are well-rounded and that means going beyond academics.”
Shanahan said she is very appreciative of the way officials of Polk County Schools have worked with them to look at this policy and consider the change.
Miller said he and other administrators have had discussions with Polk County Middle School Principal Hank Utz about how such a move would work. While students must take two courses at the high school to achieve part-time enrollment, middle school part-time enrollment would be based on total minutes spent in the classroom.
School board member Rick Covil made a motion to accept the amended policy on first reading and Sherry Page seconded the motion. The board voted unanimously to accept the first reading.
The board will take up final approval of the amended policy at its February meeting.

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