School board discusses offering courses to homeschoolers

By Amanda Dodson -

Stokes County School Board is looking at options to increase possible enrollment and may have found it by offering courses to homeschoolers through the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS).

The courses would be available to homeschool families free of charge, pending an application process and in turn, the school system would add the students to their ADM (average daily membership).

Doug Rose, Director of 6-12/Career and Technical Education presented information about NCVPS at a recent school board meeting and proposed running the program through North Stokes High School.

Rose explained the school system has worked with NCVPS and feels their content is solid and students score well when taking the classes.

“It’s rigorous and it won’t be for every student,” he said. “When I’m looking at North Stokes and see their performance rate and their typical graduation rate of over 90 percent, we want to make sure that we’re not going to do anything that will possibly hurt them.”

North Stokes has a solid reputation and in 2017 earned more than $1.7 million in scholarship offers and 92 percent were accepted into post-secondary institutions. Last year’s graduating class boasted 89 graduates, including 18 N.C. academic scholars, 25 honor graduates and 25 senior scholar athletes.

The application process would be aimed at local and out-of-county homeschoolers.

“This is something we can help out parents who are homeschooling, but don’t have the curriculum option. We want to make sure these are students who can handle independent work and who have that support system to help out at home as well,” he said.

Rose explained students would be required to take a minimum of two courses and the enrollment would include all the privileges of a North Stokes student, such as access to guidance counselors, tutoring services, athletic programs and band.

Superintendent Dr. Brad Rice added, “For athletics you would have to pass three courses in order to play the following semester, just like any other student. So if athletics became a part of it, you would have to take three. That’s very consistent across the state with others who use the virtual option. You have to be enrolled as a full-time student in order to participate. The first semester could be two courses, but to be eligible the following semester, you’d have to pass three courses the semester before.”

NCVPS is the second largest virtual public school in the nation and has served more than 175,000 middle and high school students since its initial launch in the summer of 2007. It offers 700 teachers per semester with 64 percent holding a Master’s Degree and 43 percent a National Board Certification.

Even so, there are concerns, Rose said.

He reiterated the success North Stokes has seen over the years and the importance of accepting students who learn independently.

Vice Chairperson Sonya Cox asked if this was being considered as a pilot program which would eventually be offered in other county schools.

“At this point, no,” Rose said. “Looking at the numbers I think it would impact North more positively because their enrollment is a little low and we need to increase those students as much as we can.”

Rose added, if a student from West or South Stokes wants to participate, they would be considered as part of North Stokes.

Rice said West and South Stokes have a virtual option on their campus, but if a student is considering being homeschooled, they could transfer to North Stokes and enroll.

School board member, Becky Boles believes the idea is a good one. She said when her son was young, she took him out of school for medical reasons and she would have appreciated this opportunity.

“I think it’s awesome,” Boles said.

Stokes currently has 458 homeschool families registered throughout the county and an estimated 735 students being taught at home.

“I’d like to go out and find what interest we would have. I know we have parents homeschooling who are paying for this out of their pocket,” Rose said.

It’s a viable option worth exploring, especially for those on the cusp of taking their child out of traditional school to homeschool, Cox said.

“I hope we can discuss it with our principals and get their input,” she added.

Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.

By Amanda Dodson