Homeschooling on the public dime?

OPA-PUBLIC-INFO-RESPONSE-2

 

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Is Olympic Peninsula Academy, A Publicly Funded Private School?

During the last three Sequim School Bond request it had come to my attention that the Sequim School District houses and pays for, with our tax dollars, the Olympic Peninsula Academy/Alternative Learning Experience, (OPA/ALE) for home schooled students.

My wife Floie and I have discussed the OPA/ALE with Sequim School District Director of Business Operation Brian Lewis,

Superintendent Gary Neal, School Board President Jim Stoffer and Citizens for Sequim Schools and attempted to point out that the OPA/ALE is nothing more than a private school within the Sequim School District. We were met with denial, condescension and the statement that OPA/ALE is a public school, funded under WAC 392-121-182 Alternative learning experience requirements.

This WAC states very clearly the requirements of an Alternative Learning Experience and requires that the district provide “substantially similar experiences and services” for the student enrolled in the districts regular instructional program that are provided to the OPA/ALE students and that the ALE is accessible to all students.

“(k) “Substantially similar experiences and services” means that for each purchased or contracted instructional or cocurricular course, lesson, trip, or other experience, service, or activity identified on an alternative learning experience written student learning plan, there is an identical or similar experience, service, or activity made available to students enrolled in the district’s regular instructional program:”

“(6) Alternative learning experience implementation requirements:

(a) School districts or charter schools that offer alternative learning experience courses or course work must ensure that they are accessible to all students, including students with disabilities.

Alternative learning experience courses or course work for special education students must be provided in accordance with chapter 392-172A WAC.”

We have since found out, through a public information request, presented to the Sequim School District, that the OPA/ALE enrollment is comprised solely of 101 home schooled students and not one single student from the school’s regular instructional program.

OPA/ALE enrollment requires an application, interview and waiting list process just like any other private school. There are currently 48 regular instructional program students on the waiting list for the OPA/ALE according to the schools response to my public information request.

Of the problems with the school bonds not passing, this may be one obstacle. The district spent $300,000.00 only 2 years ago to remodel the current OPA/ALE building into 8 classrooms for 14 teachers. The last failed bond asked for $2.1 million to remodel Helen Haller for the OPA/ALE and an additional $900,000.00 to re-remodel the building back into the maintenance and warehouse building for the school district. $2.1 million is a ridiculous amount to spend to re-relocate, what appears to be, for all intense and purpose, a private academy for home schooled students, emphasis on home schooled. Total cost of the OPA/ALE re-re-relocation $2.4 million plus the re-remodel of the current OPA/ALE building of $900,000.00 adds up to $3.3 million. A bit excessive I would say and a pretty good reason the bond failed, again.

My answer to the question; is Olympic Peninsula Academy a Publicly Funded Private School? Yes, I believe it is.

To view my public information request and the school districts response, go to http://digginforfacts.blogspot.com/2016/02/sequim-school-district-response-to.html

3 Comments

  1. Rose Marschall

    My name is Rose Marschall and I am the founder of OPA. It was started in 1998 by Lew Moorman. OPA is a Parent Partnership Program. These programs started in 1996 when the Alternative Education Law was expanded from High School grades to include all grades. The first program was Edmonds Homeschool Resource Center which is now Edmonds Cybershcool. They asked the parents in their school district what they needed help the most with and Foreign Languages was the answer. They started with 6-8 different Foreign Languages. The second year they asked what else and they wanted help with Science and Math and they added some of these classes and some more Foreign Languages. The last I talked with them they offered 12 different Foreign Languages.

    Parent Partnership Programs are Homeschool Support Programs. I have founded and started 3 programs and they are all continuing to thrive.

    These programs operate in the black and can provide a huge profit for a school district. Classes are run more like a community college. For example Algebra would have two classes a week and the other 3 days would be taught and overseen by the parents at home. Some programs require that you have homeschooled for 45 days before you can apply and be admitted to their programs. This is due to the fact that you will not be in school full time. This program is not a fit for full-time working parents as students will be home during working hours some days and at different hours of the day too.

    Mr. Fraier does not understand the purpose and valuable support these programs provide to families and students for their education. These families cannot be discriminated against and deserve this support as these families pay taxes too. The parents with students in regular education schools can thank the parents of these programs for providing the much needed funds they get transferred to their General Education elementary, Middle and High school programs due to this extra money. It is not unusual to have waiting lists for these and other Special Programs in school districts. So what is the big deal about that?

    The last program I ran had 250 students in it and there was an excess of $250,000 to that district. I think they bought new bleachers with that extra income that benefitted the whole district. This was Quilcene School District.

    So the answer is these are both homeschooled and public students. I never got a chance to make up a new word for them and they need it. Pubhome or Homepub students? What word would you create?

    Reply
    1. Florence

      A phrase, Ms. Marschall, an “Alternative Learning Center” dedicated to serving all children who would benefit, of which OPA would be one part. I don’t think you understand what Mr. Frazier is saying…In fact, I know you don’t. The OPA is wonderful, in concept, but the district is not looking at the larger picture here. We have, throughout the district, children who are in need of an alternative learning environment. These kids are not having their daily educational needs met. A majority of them have working parents which automatically excludes them from OPA, even if there wasn’t an application, interview and wait list to wade through.

      In one of our schools, kids who need alternative learning get a “helper” 30-40 minutes a day and homework help for an hour twice a week. The rest of the time they are left, in the regular classroom, struggling to fit in, keep up or are bored to tears and restless, in danger of being labeled “disruptive”. The teachers are great and try to help..the district seems….. detached.

      Early in my “adventures with Sequim School District” I inquired about an accelerated learning program for my son. I was informed there was no funding for that, he would be fine and “learn enough just by attending regular classes”. This necessitated my boarding him in another town so he could attend their high school. He was in “Who’s Who of American High School Students” 3 years in a row, lettered in sports several times, was a peer counselor 4 years straight, marching band major, maintained a 3.8 grade point average, and during his last year there, managed a local restaurant to help pay his board. This gained him a scholarship to attend the university of HIS choice and wouldn’t have been possible in Sequim.

      A DECADE LATER: our youngest child attended Sequim schools. From early in her scholastic career we came to understand she had a reading problem. She tried to get help, on her own, repeatedly. We intervened on her behalf on several occasions, explaining her lack of understanding the written word. At one point she was convinced that because her folks weren’t of the right “persuasion” the district just didn’t care. We went to the district AGAIN only this time, tired of dealing with us, they said, to our faces…”…her problem is that she’s lazy”. At age 16 I signed this “lazy” child out of the district and into Peninsula College (her ALE) where, with help from her instructors, she finished high school at age 16 (the youngest to do so at that time), then managed a business for two years after. She, then, joined the military and within 5 years was supervising the motor pool on her base as a Corporal and all-wheel mechanic.

      We’re just one family, how many of the districts other children have fallen through the cracks? The money argument doesn’t cut it..if OPA is bringing in dollars as an ALE then a larger, more inclusive program should bring in even more dollars…by all logic and reason. OPA should be one program, a part of alternative learning offered by the district. I would love to see an Alternative Learning Center that is not exclusive, (as required by state law) and would benefit a larger number of regularly enrolled school children of all grade levels and abilities. If we wait until these kids are teens it has, by that time, become a crisis. I mean, they want to update/upgrade Helen Haller anyway to house OPA, closing the rest off for …whatever(?) These kinds of services were offered by my grade school over 50 year ago…..in a small village….in the middle of nowhere. As a property taxpayer X2, (two residences in the district) I want “valuable support” for programs that benefit as many of our children as possible.

      Reply
    2. Bryan Frazier

      Ms. Marschall, The Alternative Education Law was expanded to include ALL children in grades K-12 in the districts, not just the home schooled children. The ALE is to provide an alternative environment for students that may require an alternative school setting in order to succeed. This includes children with disabilities, students in need of an intervention that are in danger of failing, students with ADHD and hyperactivity disorders, accelerated learners, student with reading and comprehension disorders as well as home schooled students in need of “enrichment”.

      The law is very clear and does not require any student that is in need of, or desires enrollment in an ALE program to become home schooled, fill out an application, be interviewed and placed on a waiting list. Yet 100% of the students enrolled in the OPA/ALE are home schooled and the rest of the students enrolled in the districts “regular instructional program” are excluded or placed on a waiting list where their needs are not addressed and they continue to fall through the cracks. The district is to ensure that there are “substantially similar experiences and services” for the students in the “districts regular instructional program” as those provided in the ALE. If this requirement is not met then the ALE and the district are in violation of the Alternative Learning Experience Requirements of WAC 392-121-182 Alternative learning experience requirements and the Alternative learning experience implementation requirements:

      “(k) “Substantially similar experiences and services” means that for each purchased or contracted instructional or cocurricular course, lesson, trip, or other experience, service, or activity identified on an alternative learning experience written student learning plan, there is an identical or similar experience, service, or activity made available to students enrolled in the district’s regular instructional program:”

      “(6) Alternative learning experience implementation requirements:
      (a) School districts or charter schools that offer alternative learning experience courses or course work must ensure that they are accessible to all students, including students with disabilities.

      This would include the foreign language, math, science or any other class, instruction, service or activity offered through any ALE as you have described. If these requirements are not met the ALE and the district are in violation of the law as it is written. Ms. Rose Marschall failed to elaborate on whether or not the entire district student body had access to these foreign languages, science and math classes or just the home schooled students. “The Edmonds Cyberschool was created to serve the learning needs of an increasing number of homeschool children” http://www.ascd.org/publications/classroom-leadership/apr2002/Cyberschool.aspx

      Ms. Marschall, I do fully understand and comprehend the “purpose and value” of the OPA/ALE and the support these programs offer to home school families, exclusive of the students enrolled in the district regular instructional program. I do not suggest discrimination against these taxpayers or their children. However, information I have received through a public information request to the district, I find that the “discrimination” is against the students enrolled in the districts regular instructional program who would also benefit from the “valuable support these programs provide” and their family, who also pay taxes and who may not be so advantaged as to have a stay at home parent.

      If these programs “operate in the black” and “provide a huge profit for the school district” then I find that there is no excuse why the district could not have repaired the roof of the community school that housed the OPA/ALE prior to the $300,000.00 expenditure just two years ago to renovate the building the OPA/ALE currently occupies. This “profit” could have repaired the roof and replaced the furnace to provide the OPA/ALE a safe and secure environment with room for all the students enrolled in the districts regular instructional program to attend if they so need or desire.

      Unfortunately this “profit” is negated because “Local school officials are finding that a growing number of Sequim-area students are leaving classrooms for online schools and taking state-apportioned funds with them.”

      “We are losing students”, Sequim School Superintendent told Sequim School Board Directors. ““The traditional setting is not working for them. Those options are somewhere else.” http://www.sequimgazette.com/news/309400751.html “there are 87 students who live in Sequim’s school district boundaries but don’t attend Sequim schools.” “We tend to lose them at grade 11”. “If a Sequim kid wants to go somewhere else, great, but a Sequim kid shouldn’t have to go somewhere else because we don’t have that opportunity.”

      It doesn’t matter what you call these students, they are students, without stigmatizing labels. My suggestion, if we want to keep our kids in the district, is to expand the ALE to be all inclusive of all students in the district, in full compliance with the

      Reply

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