Home-schooled students in Clark and Champaign counties have new opportunities to participate in sports and other activities in their home district thanks to a new state law.
But some local public school leaders have questions about how it might be Incorporated into their current policies and what the law, which technically takes effect Sept. 29, means for fall sports, which begin several weeks before that.
“We have a number of questions about determining academic eligibility, communication when there are changes in contests and practice times, drug testing and the list goes on,” said Daniel R. Kaffenbarger, superintendent of Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools and of the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center.
For Heather Phipps’ home-schooled family, she and her husband can now afford their 14-year-old son’s post-secondary enrollment option this fall.
The new law also directed that the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Program be opened up to home schooled children. The program pays for dual enrollment college courses at participating Ohio institutions of higher learning. The funding previously available to public schools students is now also available to homeschoolers.
“I would love to have my child do post-secondary college, but we couldn’t afford it and, now that they qualify for the same funding that the public school kids do, it will allow my child to do post-secondary next year,” Phipps said.
Phipps is a co-founder of the A.B.L.E. (Achieving Bible Led Education) Homeschooling co-op based in New Carlisle. She also homeschools her 10-year-old son and 5-year-old nephew, who lives with the family.
She said they personally don’t want their children in the public school environment, but added there are public school parents who hesitate to go the homeschooling route because they’re afraid their kids will miss out on opportunities.
“A lot of people are really concerned about sports because they want their kids to be able to get scholarships … and if they’re not on the school teams, they’re not going to get noticed,” Phipps said.
“I think it will benefit those people that have their kids in (public) school for those reasons, but there are lots of things in the homeschool community already. They have different sports, they have gym classes, marching band, you name it, they pretty much have it, but you have to find it,” she said.
School districts who responded to an informal Springfield News-Sun survey in the two counties have seen limited or no interest in participation from home schoolers, including Springfield City Schools — the most-populated district among them.
Despite that, officials will still need to weed through the new rules to determine how they’ll be affected.
The new law requires districts to allow homeschooled kids who reside within their district to participate, and extends that offer to resident students enrolled at chartered and nonchartered private schools — if the extracurricular activity they wish to participate in isn’t offered at their school, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s guidelines for school districts.
Superintendents may also allow those students outside their district to participate, if their home district doesn’t offer the extracurricular activity, but that’s not required, according to the OHSAA. Non-resident students at non-public schools could also be allowed to participate in interscholastic athletics and contests.
“We are in the process of determining how these things will be addressed, so we meet the spirit of the law,” Kaffenbarger said.
Despite the September effective date, the OHSAA has said it’s treating the matter as if it had become effective the moment Gov. John Kasich signed the bill in July and has guided Ohio districts to do the same.
“We have been given a basic guidance document from the OHSAA and I took from that this was to begin immediately so we will begin with fall sports,” Kaffenbarger said. His district had only one inquiry by a home-schooled student as of Aug. 1.
Urbana City Schools, the largest district Champaign County, hadn’t had any inquiries about participation as of Aug. 1, said Superintendent Charles Thiel.
The new law makes obsolete Urbana’s previous participation requirement. “We had a partial enrollment requirement (one class period) for home-schooled or community school students to participate in athletics and extracurriculars,” Thiel said.
That one-class enrollment requirement aligned with the state’s previous exception rule, which allowed a home-schooled student who resided in the district to participate.
Graham Local Schools has had minimal interest from homeschoolers in the past and also previously required a student to enroll in at least one class in order to participate, according to Superintendent Norm Glismann.
However, it’s had one home-schooled student express interest in playing football this year.
Graham will also start the new participation rule before the fall sports season starts, he said.
“It’s not fair to punish the student by making him/her fall behind the other athletes. We intend to allow students to begin practicing and playing immediately,” he said.