District considers ways to lure home-schoolers
The Tonganoxie school board is gearing up to join the throes of public schools that are using modern technology to supplement and enhance education.
Using the Basehor-Linwood Virtual Charter School as a guide, the board talked Monday night about how Tonganoxie can offer a similar program. The Basehor-Linwood program is an internet-based kindergarten through high school curriculum designed as a resource for parents who home-school their children.
Darren Neas, assistant principal of Tonganoxie High School who previously worked with the Basehor-Linwood VCS, has investigated the possibility of offering such a program.
The first step, Neas said, is to contact home-school families and find out if they would be interested in participating in district programs.
The Tonganoxie district could offer parents the Basehor-Linwood curriculum, or it could allow home schooled students to attend certain classes in Tonganoxie schools. This could include courses sometimes difficult to teach at home, such as chemistry, anatomy and physiology.
It could also mean that those students could participate in special classes such as band, vocal music and shop, as well as join after-school clubs.
"There are 26 registered home schools in the district," Neas said. "About half of those are in the elementary grades."
In talking to the parents of home-schooled students, Neas said, he has learned that they are using curriculums provided by various religions or those used by other home schools.
"As far as attending public schools, there is an interest in chemistry and classes like chemistry," Neas said.
"Some of the parents were undecided as to whether they wanted to put their kids back in school, part time or full time."
Neas inquired about a program sponsored by Lawrence schools where the home-schooled students attend public school to take the classes they need.
The amount of state funding the district would receive for providing any educational opportunities to these students would depend on how much time a home-schooled student actually spent at school, Neas said.
"If the students are attending public school 20 percent of the time, the school district would get 20 percent of the state funding, as long as the students are physically present in the building as of September 20," Neas said.
One path to establishing a Tonganoxie virtual school would be for the district to use services provided by the Greenbush Educational Consortium, which would offer a variety of support to the district.
For instance, home-schooled students enrolled in a district's virtual schools would be required to have a computer at home. At Basehor-Linwood, the school district provides computers to virtual charter school students.
In Tonganoxie, the district does not have the needed infrastructure or the funds available to purchase computers for home-schoolers, Neas said. The district could enter into an agreement with the Greenbush consortium to provide the computers if the consortium receives a portion of the state aid the district receives.
If Tonganoxie uses curriculum provided by the Basehor-Linwood district, that district would receive a share of Tonganoxie's state aid for home-schooled students.
Board member Ron Moore said this could help the Tonganoxie district grow.
"It gives us an opportunity to attract more students to our schools," Moore said.
Steve Woolf, principal of Tonganoxie Junior High, said while the on-line curriculum could benefit students, he would welcome the opportunity to have home-schooled students attend classes at the junior high.
"I would love to have home-schooled students who could come in and take a two-hour block of band, shop and art classes," Woolf said.
An added benefit to these options, Woolf said, would be that students would have more options.
"We basically have one system and if you don't fit within that system, it's tough," he said. "This would give students a lot of other choices."
By general consensus, the board asked Neas to continue with his research on virtual schools.
Also Monday night, the board re-appointed Chris Donnelly to the recreation commission.
In other matters, the board approved: resignations of Linda Lake, high school English teacher, and Meredith Mense, half-time elementary school vocal music teacher; transfers of Debbie Gravatt to the high school library paraprofessional position and Shannon Nickel to the sophomore English teaching position; hiring of Kelly Alexander as seventh-grade English teacher and head volleyball coach, hiring of Belynda Woods as evening custodian of the grade school, and hiring of Bill DeWitt as social science teacher and PSAT and ACT instructor.
The board also offered contracts to existing certified employees as recommended by building principals.