When you decide to enroll your student in an alternative to public school, whether it is enrolling him/her in an online private school such as Enlightium Academy or taking on all responsibilities yourself in homeschooling, you are cutting yourself off from the educational standard and therefore have additional steps to fulfill. It’s a tradeoff - you have more of a say in what and how your student is learning, and in return you are accountable to the state to ensure that your student is learning the basics.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind when meeting with your local school district.
Understand the requirements going in.
Many families have had the experience where, in communication with the local school district about what requirements to fulfill, they walk away with a seemingly impossible list of items to complete throughout the year. Take this obscure courses, complete this paperwork that we made impossible to find online, prove to the government once a quarter that you know what you’re doing.
It may seem like extra work for you, but shift your perspective to the school district superintendent’s. He/she wants your student to have a great educational experience, but likely has seen some families take on this responsibility and completely fail their student. Every superintendent with years in the job has likely seen students who had parents that weren’t able to physically be with their students to teach them, were not actually able to teach complex topics like trigonometry, or simply didn’t care enough to put in the effort. That’s devastating. They want to make sure you’re up to the task and are willing and able to complete all state requirements.
So, going into a meeting with the school district, do your research ahead of time. Be knowledgeable on what it required and flexible if new action steps are provided to you. Look up the laws online and on EA’s series on state requirements.
Students enrolled in Enlightium Academy are considered private school students. Even though EA students are working from home, it is important to communicate this to your local school district. Some districts may still consider EA a homeschool program even after you told them. In that case, shift gears and be prepared to fulfill your state’s homeschooling requirements instead.
Know that the laws vary.
Laws vary from state to state, county to county, district to district, and superintendent to superintendent. I was assisting a mother from New York in preparing to speak with her school district superintendent. New York is notorious for making parents jump through hoop after hoop. I shared with her Enlightium Academy’s article on alternative schooling in New York and gave her much of the advice found in this article. She walked into that meeting confident in her preparation and fully armed with the knowledge to show that she understood and was ready to fulfill all state requirements. She called me back after her meeting and said the meeting went great and she only needed to fulfill a fraction of the requirements I had listed and with some variations. Her experience was completely different than many other New York families who walk away with a shopping list of requirements. If your school district gives you a different list of requirements than what you were prepared for, that’s fine. Defer to their judgment.
Get your requirements in writing.
Bearing in mind that your school district’s superintendent may state for you to complete Step A while their own website states Step B, get your actionable steps in writing. Take notes as you are in discussion and tell the superintendent that you appreciate the meeting and are ready to stay on top of fulfilling all requirements. Tell him/her you will send an email to him/her with these steps for confirmation. This will be to your benefit for several reasons:
Creates an audit trail.
Email the superintendent and say “I am glad we spoke today. As per our conversation, I only need to complete steps A, B and C, and nothing else”. You should get an email back confirming (if not, follow up in the same thread after a few weeks).
Worse-case scenario: fast forward to the end of the first semester and you receive a phone call from the school district saying “you never completed step D!” You can easily (and politely) reference the email thread you had with the superintendent and say “Well, D was never discussed, which is why I did not complete it this semester. But, I will make a note of it for semester 2 and future years.” That’s difficult for them to challenge and as long as it’s added to your new list of steps it should not be an issue.
Resolves misunderstandings in a timely manner.
Emailing the superintendent your list of actionable steps allows the superintendent to correct any incorrect information. For example, let’s say you state in the email, “as per our conversation, I will need to and be happy to send a progress report to this email address once a semester.” The superintendent replies with, “actually, we will need to see a progress report once a quarter.” Easy fix and a frustrating conversation down the road avoided.
Provides ease of reference.
Let’s say that you met with the superintendent during the summer. Now it’s the end of the school year and you remember you had something incredibly important to do, but that’s as far as your memory serves. No need to look through a pile of papers or try to recall the specifics. Just reference that email thread and you have all the information you need.
Ensures that you are speaking with the right person.
We all know that it can be difficult to get a hold of the right person. You may end up speaking with several people until you get to the superintendent, or never even speak with the superintendent. Keeping a single email thread with everyone you spoke with by name and title will allow you to easily reference who said what and when.
For any other questions about online private homeschooling or Enlightium Academy, please call 866-488-4818, or visit EnlightiumAcademy.com. Enlightium Academy is an accredited alternative education option to public school education. Our program offers the comfort of a homeschool education environment, and a quality, private education. Enlightium is a Christian school, offering a Bible-based, flexible, accredited, teacher supported, affordable option to public school. Enlightium Academy meets all accreditation and state education requirements for all 50 states, while neither using the state curriculum or Common Core.