2018-04-14 / Front Page

PCS may work with home schools

By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Staf Writer

Person County Schools administrators are hoping to work with home-school families as part of an initiative to re-position the school system as a “central hub” of the community.

Innovation Project CEO Ann McColl used that phrase in her presentation to the school board on Thursday, in which she highlighted the research that TIP – a collaborative working group of 25 North Carolina district superintendents – has done to study all of the state’s school systems and come up with forward-thinking strategies to create thriving, cooperative education environments.

Home schools growing ‘leaps and bounds’

In her presentation, McColl said traditional public school systems have a unique role of building relationships in the community, which includes private and charter schools, and, to an increasingly-prominent extent, home schools.

The statewide market share for home schools has grown “leaps and bounds,” she said, surpassing private schools during the 2013-14 school year in number of attending students, with 98,172 home-school students compared to 95,768 private-school students.

Home schools also exceeded private schools in growth rate between that year and the next, at 8,681 students compared to 1,491 students.

“If we imagine these trends are in some way continuing on, that kind of growth is really going to be extraordinary,” she said.

“[To] put it another way, if we put together all of the homeschooled students in the state, they would be the third-largest school district. Only Wake and Charlotte-[Mecklenburg] would be bigger than the home-schooled students.”

Differe nt reaso ns to home school

McColl encouraged the board members to learn more about the local home schools by studying their demographics and talking with families.

“We all can think about different reasons that we’ve heard of people wanting to home school,” she said. “One of the things that we really encourage is that you get to know some of the homeschool families; find out why they made those choices. It’s important that we recognize that we might have a bias of imagining that it’s for a particular reason, when oftentimes there are a lot of different reasons.”

Some of those reasons, she said, include religious views, reduced testing, greater family involvement, greater flexibility and safety. Oftentimes, home schools also offer more “real world” experiences, she said.

“We talk now about how great it is when we integrate across curriculum,” she said. “We want a STEM project that also practices their writing skills and maybe even has a little history. Well they’ve been doing that – that’s what they like to do. They like to have things very ‘real-world.’ And sometimes they think that the way we separate out our curriculum doesn’t feel very ‘real world.’”

“An innovative piece”

Reaching out to the home schools is important, McColl said, because it creates a more connective community that can work together in a two-way relationship. According to PCS Superintendent Rodney Peterson, several homeschool families have reached out to the public school system with inquiries about specific programs and classes.

“What we have done is, with our Ignite [middle-school program] and different other programs, we do have the list serve of all our home schools in the district; and we did send out mailings to them regarding that,” Peterson said.

“We’ve had a few people show up, and we’ve had a few people give us a call and ask us specific questions about things.”

Based on feedback from Person County residents, coupled with data collected by TIP, the board will discuss integrating new approaches that can involve home-schooled students, such as virtual academies; part-time enrollment; dual enrollment, in which home education-enrichment programs are offered through the public school system; and open access to extracurricular activities, such as band and football for home-school students.

“I think maybe our next step is getting a gauge of where [TIP] wants us to go from here,” Peterson said. “And just give us a direction of where you want us to go. All of this is part of the idea of being an innovative piece inside of our community and being a resource.”

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