Access to Public School Systems
Part Time Enrollment in Public Schools
§22.1-253.13:2 N “Students enrolled in a public school on a less than full-time basis shall be counted in average daily membership (ADM) in the relevant school division. Students who are either (i) enrolled in a nonpublic school or (ii) receiving home instruction pursuant to §22.1-254.1, and who are enrolled in public school on a less than full-time basis in any mathematics, science, English, history, social science, vocational education, fine arts, foreign language course, or health and physical education shall be counted in the average daily membership (ADM) in the relevant school division on a pro rata basis as provided in the appropriation act. However, no such nonpublic or homeschool student shall be counted as more than one-half a student for purposes of such pro rata calculation. Such calculation shall not include enrollments of such students in any other public school courses.”
Is access more available now?
The availability of access is very limited. It varies from district to district. Homeschool parents may appeal to local school boards for public school access for their children. School boards are not required to make public school classes available to private school or homeschooled students. They still retain that discretion. However, school boards and public schools now have an incentive to allow part-time enrollment—partial funding. Part-time students will now be counted in the average daily membership (ADM), and schools will receive up to one-half ADM funding for each part-time student.
Who may enroll part-time?
Part-time enrollment is open to both private school and homeschooled students. Only homeschoolers who are registered under §22.1-254.1 may enroll in classes. A religiously-exempt student does not qualify for part-time enrollment because he, together with his parents “by reason of bona fide religious training or belief, is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school,” §22.1-254 B 1. Part-time enrollment is limited to the space available.
What classes can be taken?
Qualifying students may take mathematics, science, English, history, social science, career and technical education, fine arts, foreign language, health education or physical education.
Have access policies been developed?
VSBA (Virginia School Boards Association) has adopted the following policies that reflect a framework from which member school boards may create local policy:
Admission: Part-time students (private-school or homeschool students) who want to enroll in academic courses must designate upon enrollment each extracurricular or club activity in which they wish to participate.
Enrollment: High-school students must enroll in at least one academic class; elementary- and middle-school students must enroll in one instructional unit for each extracurricular or club activity. If no activity is sought, a minimum of two classes must be attended. Part-time students must complete all prerequisites for course work or the equivalent required of full-time students. Acceptance is on a space-available basis.
Activities: Students who want to participate in extracurricular or club activities must satisfy the same or equivalent criteria (including Virginia High School League regulations) that full-time students must satisfy. Part-time students must participate in and satisfy all try-out or selection processes required. They also must comply with behavioral, disciplinary, attendance, and other classroom rules. The school may withhold credit or terminate the student’s participation for noncompliance.
Transportation: Parents of part-time students are responsible for transportation to and from school, including any expenses.
Academic Credit: Class ranking and grade-point-average shall not be computed for part-time students and such students shall not be eligible to graduate or receive a diploma.
Could there be other requirements?
In addition to these policies, parents may expect local school divisions to implement regulations of their own. Of course, these policies will vary from district to district. Part-time students may have to meet some of the following requirements:
- prove academic achievement by submitting records,
- take placement tests for individual subjects or to verify grade level,
- attend “home-room” in order to report attendance for state funding, or
- maintain a designated grade-point average in order to qualify for extracurricular activities.
What about interscholastic sports and teams?
VSBA suggests that students who want to participate in extracurricular or club activities must satisfy the same or equivalent criteria, including Virginia High School League regulations that full-time students must satisfy. However, according to current Virginia High School League policy, homeschoolers are disqualified from participation in VHSL activities for a variety of reasons. Here are some sample policies:
The Bona Fide Student and Enrollment Rule—
The student shall be a regular bona fide student in good standing of the school which he/she represents. There is an obvious problem for homeschoolers with this rule: according to VHSL policy, a “regular” student is considered a full-time student who is in regular attendance.
The Scholarship Rule-
The student shall: For the first semester be currently enrolled in not fewer than five subjects, or their equivalent, offered for credit and which may be used for graduation and have passed five subjects, or their equivalent, offered for credit and which may be used for graduation the immediately preceding year or the immediately preceding semester for schools that certify credit on a semester basis.
There are numerous difficulties with the Scholarship Rule:
- The take-five-pass-five standard is not met by VSBA’s recommendation of enrolling in one class.
- VHSL further clarifies the Scholarship Rule by stating that credit for the five subjects must be recognized by the State Department of Education. Courses completed at home would not transfer to meet the Scholarship Rule.
- Because homeschoolers are transferring from another school, scholastic eligibility “may be established only by an official certificate or transcript from that school.” Transcripts from homeschoolers are not considered “official” by the Department of Education. Public schools are also not required to accept credits from non-accredited schools such as private schools or homeschools.
Another limiting factor, other than VHSL regulations, is high school eligibility to participate in interscholastic sporting events. Allowing ineligible students to participate on interscholastic teams has serious consequences for public schools. It could result in the entire school losing its eligibility to compete in interscholastic activities—something public schools are not likely to jeopardize. Because of Virginia High School League policies and high school eligibility requirements, participation in interscholastic sports or other interscholastic activities is not open to homeschoolers.
As a last resort, parents who are interested in their children playing on high school sports teams have turned to the courts for relief. Lawsuits in states with similar restrictions have not resulted in favorable outcomes for nonpublic students.