2017-08-13 / Insight

Open door policy affords homeschoolers on east side

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER COUNTY — All of the school district’s on the east side of Lapeer County have an open door policy when it comes to homeschooled students, but none of them have a good idea how man homeschoolers are out there.

That’s not surprising. While the National Center for Education Statistics, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education estimates there are between 51,000 and 68,000 students homeschooled statewide. Michigan is one of 11 states that has no requirements for families to notify schools or any other officials that they’re homeschooling.

“When I first started homeschoolers had to register with the state,” said Imlay City Community Schools Superintendent Stu Cameron, who’s been with the district 24 years. “That requirement has not existed in some time.”

Unlike the county’s largest school district — Lapeer Community Schools — Imlay City doesn’t have a facility set aside for homeschoolers. Instead, Cameron said, it maintains an open door policy.

“We’ve worked with several families in the past,” said Dina Tallis, the district’s Director of Elementary Education and Student Support Services. Tallis said each year the district sends out notices to all school-aged families in the district notifying them of what the district has to offer.

She said that while the district provides homeschooled students access to band, athletics and specialized classes, it doesn’t see large numbers of students taking advantage of the offerings.

Currently, Cameron said, there are five or six students enrolled in Imlay City programs. He said that could change once fall enrollment numbers are in, but he doesn’t expect a huge change.

Statewide the estimates for homeschooled students hover around 3 percent and Cameron said he doesn’t think Lapeer County is much different.

Cameron said Imlay City’s approach is to meet with families one-on-one and provide whatever offerings it can. He said typically families come looking for advanced technical classes such as biology or AP calculus.

Mary Finnigan, superintendent of Dryden Community Schools said, “We are all about personalizing the learning environment for our students and families.”

She said Dryden provides a variety of opportunities to the district’s homeschool students, including sports, clubs, band, art and drama, as well as specialized classes.

“We have a number of students in our virtual academy,” she said, adding “others take college classes in our early college program and some take a class or two on campus.”

Sue Frederickson, a counselor at Almont High School, said she has three homeschooled students so far who are signed up for classes at the Lapeer County Education and Technology Center (Ed-Tech) who want to participate in sports at the school. She added she also gets one or two a year who want to take the SAT exam.

“We’ve not had a whole lot of contact with homeschooled students,” she said, and added she suspects that’s because of Almont’s size, the population of homeschoolers is fairly small.

Bill Kalmar, who took over as superintendent six months ago, said the district doesn’t do outreach for high school-age students. He said most of Almont’s concentrated advertising is for school-readiness programs and kindergarten round-up.

Kalmar said the district has six or seven students enrolled through the state’s virtual learning program VLAC, “but we don’t have much interaction with them, it’s mostly administrative.

Typically, Kalmer said, Almont only sees a handful of homeschoolers interested in a shared schedule either through the high school or Ed-Tech.

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