Home-schooled student numbers stable in Chinook School Division
There has been no significant change in the number of students enrolled for home-based education in the Chinook School Division.
Superintendent of Schools Bob Vavra presented the home-based education status report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, Nov. 13.
Enrolment for home-based education in the school division has varied between a low of 123 and a high of 136 students during the last five school years. A total of 131 students are enrolled for the 2018-19 school year, which is a slight increase over the 126 students in 2017-18.
There was a small drop in the number of male students from 63 last year to 61 in the current year. The number of female students increased about 3.5 per cent from 63 last year to 70 in 2018-19.
Vavra felt it was significant that no parents provided safety or security as a reason for homebased education.
“In the past we've always had a few students registered because their parents thought that there were issues at school and it was safer to keep them home,” he said. “We actually ask them why they enrol their kids in home-based education and for the first time we don't have that. So that's a positive.”
Fewer parents (49) indicated faith as a reason for home-based education and most parents (82) referred to programming and choice as a motivation for homeschooling their child.
“I think that reflects our society and reflects the opportunities that are out there for kids, not just in a school setting, but in a homeschool setting as well,” he said.
There are 28 new students in home-based education this year. Nine students have transitioned from homeschooling to regular school. This transition often happens at the Grade 9 and 10 level, when the students want to get into the credit system.
Last year the school division implemented changes to the communication process with parents, which used to be done through traditional mail, and Vavra reported that the digitization process has been successful.
Communication with parents now takes place mostly through e-mail and only three out of 131 parents did not provide their e-mail contact details.
“It has worked well for parents and for the school division,” he said. “Our communication is almost instantaneous now, whereas before it took weeks, and the information that we can get out to them is much more vast than it was before. Information about upcoming events in the community and things like that, that we can share that could be very valuable to homeschooling.”
The provincial legislation for home-based education requires that students between the ages of six and 15 are registered with their local school division or directly with the Ministry of Education. Parents or guardians have to provide a school division with an educational plan in four subject areas – English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.
“I think the quality of the education plan is getting better,” he said. “They have to report on four key areas, make a plan in four key areas, and parents are doing a very good job of planning or utilizing preexisting curriculum to teach their kids, and then they’re doing a very good job of creating portfolios or yearend reports to summarize and share back what they’re doing.”
Vavra noted that the school division is still experiencing some challenges with the timely submission of documents by parents, including documents for registration, learning plans, invoices, and the annual progress report.
“We communicate frequently about our timelines and more than half of them wouldn't meet our timelines,” he said.
The school division then has to make repeated calls to parents to get their documents in. Nine parents did not submit registration documents before the Sept. 30 deadline, and the school division will not get funding from the Ministry of Education for those students. It means the school division will now be responsible for the reimbursement fee of up to $300 to those parents for educational supplies.
Vavra made a suggestion to the board that the school division's policy in this regard should be reviewed.
“I did check with the ministry and I did check with a couple of divisions, and the recommendation from the ministry was to change our policy,” he said. “We can't do it now probably because our policy is in place, but for next year, and we could communicate this out in what we send out to them in the spring that if they do not meet the deadlines, that we would not remunerate them for $300 because not only are we not getting the funding, now we're giving them money.”