Smithfield Herald

August 25, 2014

Proposed Johnston school policy reserves classes for full-time students

A proposed Johnston County Schools policy would bar home-schooled, private and charter school students from taking classes offered by the public schools.

A proposed Johnston County Schools policy would bar home-schooled, private and charter school students from taking classes offered by the public schools.

In response to what they called “an increasing number of requests” by nontraditional students, school leaders unveiled a draft policy this month that would reserve classes and class-related activities for full-time Johnston County Schools students.

Historically, the system has not allowed nontraditional students to enroll part-time, except for the driver’s education program. But in recent months, school leaders say, they have received more phone calls from parents asking if their child can enroll in specific courses. Most of the calls have come from parents of home-schooled students.

Dr. Oliver Johnson, the system’s assistant superintendent of student services, said he thinks those calls stem from language in the latest “Home School Guidebook,” a publication released by the state’s Division of Non-Public Education. The guidebook says home-schooled students ages 7 and older can enroll part-time in regular public schools, and it encourages parents to ask their local school system about its specific policies.

Johnson said the school system has always used a protocol that reserves classes and related activities for full-time students. But with the recent increase in requests, he and other school leaders found it prudent to write a formal policy, he said.

Johnston County Schools already limits extracurricular activities, including band and athletics, to full-time students. The new policy would extend that stance to instructional programs.

The state gives funds to school systems based on the number of full-time students enrolled. Johnson said the school system would not receive funding for part-time students taking courses. In addition, the system would not have authority to enforce disciplinary actions or attendance policies on part-time students, he said.

Nearly 3,500 students in Johnston County attend either a charter, private or home school, according to the state’s Office of Charter Schools and the Division of Non-Public Education. The state estimates that about 2,304 of those students are home-schooled, the ninth-highest number among North Carolina’s 100 counties.

Attempts to contact several home schools, the Johnston County Home Educators and North Carolinians for Home Education were unsuccessful.

Daniel Casey, the director of guidance and student services at Neuse Charter School, said he doesn’t think the policy will affect students at his school. Neuse Charter does not send any students to Johnston County Schools for specific classes, he said.

“If we don’t offer something, we partner with Johnston Community College on some college-type courses,” Casey said. Neuse Charter also uses N.C. Virtual Public Schools, which provides a selection of online courses.

Neuse Charter does send students to Smithfield-Selma High School to take driver’s education. The Johnston County Schools driver’s education policy shows the program is open not only to full-time students but “non-public school students” who reside in the county.

The district’s policy-review committee has signed off on the proposed rule change, and Deputy Superintendent Ross Renfrow presented the draft policy to the school board for first reading on Aug. 12.

The policy lists the following as district-sponsored activities available only to full-time students: instructional opportunities (both in-person and online), competitions, tutorials, class performances or recitals, field trips and guest speakers.

The policy goes on to say that home-schooled, private or charter students who opt to enroll in the district will be assigned to a school in their home district and must meet the same requirements as other students at the school.

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