School policy change impacts home schoolers

479

A change in the policies of the Switzerland County School Corporation at Monday’s school board meeting could impact whether or not county children can participate in extra curricular activities.

The school board made two changes on Monday night to its NEOLA policies for the corporation. NEOLA is a national organization that schools contract with for keeping the corporation up to date on state and national changes in policies in order to keep the corporation in compliance. Some of the policies are law, so there is no leeway on them, because they must be accepted; while others deal with issues that NEOLA gives different options for, and then the individual school boards determine which option it wants to accept.

On Monday night, the policy change in quest dealt with children who are home schooled, and if they are allowed to participate in extra curricular and co-curricular programs offered by the public school corporation, such as participating on athletic teams or in the band or choir, for example.

Currently, the policy here states that if a home schooled child is enrolled and attends at least one academic class at the school that they would attend, then they are eligible to participate in extra curricular and co-curricular programs offered.

On Monday night, the school board changed that policy, which will take affect at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Under the new policy, in order to participate in extra curricular and co-curricular programs that are offered by the school corporation, a student must be enrolled as a full time student. The change in the policy means that some programs could lose participants, if the parents decide to continue home schooling instead of enrolling the student full time.

“I met with the coach, the wrestling coach,” Superintendent Mike Jones said. “What I told him was, I can’t advise them, I don’t represent them, but they’re always welcome to come and share their feelings about it.”

Jones said that under the NEOLA policy that the board approved, according to state law a school corporation ‘may’ let home schooled students participate in extra curricular and co-curricular programs, they have to attend a minimum of one academic class per day.

“The advantage to that is, the child can participate in extra curricular and co-curricular activities, and then the school can turn them in for a partial ADM,” Jones said. “For example, if a student is attending two classes, let’s say, you can probably count that student as a third of a student for purpose of your ADM and your state funding.”

‘ADM’ is the actual count of students attending a particular school corporation. The state of Indiana gives an amount of money to the school corporation per student to help run the school, so the more students a corporation has, the more money comes from the state to help operate that school.

“When this issues came up, I researched other schools to see what they were doing,” Jones said. “Most schools allow that. Sunman-Dearborn and Greensburg I know are two that say, ‘No. If you want to participate in athletics or co-curricular, you have to be a full time public school student’, so I think at the time it was the general feeling of the board to move in that direction.”

The other issue that has come up, according to Jones, is that a lot of home school programs now actually have public school designation by the state, so they are receiving those ADM funds. That means when a home schooled student attends a public school for the purposes of being eligible to participate in extra curricular and co-curricular programs, that public school cannot put that student on its role for a partial ADM payment because those funds are already targeted to the home school program.

“Some of the home schools are classified as public schools, while others aren’t, so it’s really not clear,” Jones said. “You really have to get in and look at it. It’s not just black and white. The policy change will now say that you have to be a full time student at Switzerland County to participate.”

But Jones did leave room for further discussion on the matter.

“Now, you know, that’s not to say that, it’s like any other issue, if there’s enough interest in it and people want to see it revised, you can always take that into consideration,” the superintendent said.