The Dare County Board of Education voted earlier this month to draft a policy to permit home schooled students to participate in athletics and extra-curricular activities in Dare County Schools.
A policy will be developed by the school board’s attorney in consultation with the system attorney and the middle and high school principals.
The board also changed where it will meet and the type of school tour, faculty and student recognitions and instructional highlights.
Meeting in the gymnasium at Cape Hatteras Elementary School in Buxton, six board members gathered while Frank Hester participated remotely.
At last month’s meeting, the issue of allowing home schooled students to participate in sports was discussed and placed on the agenda for October.
In the 2021-22 school year, Dare County had 421 home schools with an estimated enrollment of 634 students, according to North Carolina Department of Administration, Division of Non-public Education.
To put that in Dare County context, the combined student population at First Flight Elementary at 322 and Cape Hatteras Elementary at 310 students totals 632 students, four students less than the state’s estimate of home schooled students for last year’s school term.
Seven Hatteras Islanders delivered public comment about allowing home schooled students to participate in extra-curricular activities, not just sports.
Brent Liner has three home schooled children. He pointed to the board’s goals and objectives, existing school board policy and the student statistics from the Division of Non-public Education. He asked that in “fairness and equity,” for the school board to “make your school activities available to the students in Dare County that are home schooled and educated.” He listed clubs, music, enrichment programs and sports.
Student Marissa Liner simply said she was “looking for activities to take part in.” She asked the board to “create a policy to allow home school students to participate in.”
Leah Kenner loves to play sports but has aged-out of the Parks and Rec programs. She “wants to play organized sports with my friends.”
Rich Kenner, of Buxton, has four children. He said many kids are not interested in sports and pushed for student access to other extra-curricular activities starting at the middle school level. In conversations in the community, he received overwhelmingly positive remarks.
Bonnie Williams, who pushed for creating the multi-generational Fessenden Center, acknowledged that programming for Parks and Recreation sports doesn’t go beyond age 12. She lobbied for home schooled students to continue to participate in activities past age 12.
Kelly Williams, a mother of three home schooled children, urged the board to “fight for what’s best for all students in Dare County.”
Megan Vayette has two children, one who is in the system’s dual language program. Her seventh grader has struggled since COVID and is now home schooled and thriving. She too urged the board to open extra-curricular activities to all students of Dare County.
Toward the end of the meeting, the board took up home schooled student participation.
School board attorney Rachel Hitch reviewed a model policy suggested by the North Carolina School Boards Association with 10 different items.
“You have wide discretion,” Hitch told the board.
Board member Joe Tauber said, “I want home school kids treated like in-school students.” He advocated for the least restrictive model.
The board voted unanimously to have its policy committee work with Hitch, Interim Superintendent Steve Blackstock and middle and high school administrators to prepare a proposed policy that would allow home schooled students to participate in activities. The policy should be prepared for the board action at its January 2023 meeting.
Another issue was not so easily resolved. The board had discussed changes to its meeting routine at the September meeting.
As outlined by board Chairman David Twiddy, the school board would meet regularly in the Dare County Board of Commissioners Meeting Room, which is technologically equipped to broadcast and record meetings. The facility is attached to the Dare Government Administration Building at 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive in Manteo.
Currently, during the school year, the school board tours schools in groups – like Cape Hatteras Elementary and Secondary schools – on the same day and the holds a meeting at one of the schools toured.
Instead, as proposed, on the day of a regular school board meeting, the board would tour one school, hear achievements and recognitions and host an informal staff lunch. Then the board would go to Manteo for its business meeting.
Board member Susan Bothwell motioned to reschedule upcoming board meetings for the Board of Commissioners room with one meeting in Hatteras. The motion died, with three votes for and four against.
Board members Mary Ellon Balance moved to reschedule school board meetings at the Board of Commissioners meeting space with one meeting on Hatteras Island and one at Kill Devil Hills Town Hall. This motion passed 5 to 2 with members Tauber and Margaret Lawler opposing.
The board passed on first reading policies about board committees, prohibition against discrimination, harassment and bullying and Title IX sexual harassment – prohibited conduct and reporting process.
Introduced for first reading were policies titled public participation in board meetings; board meeting procedures; immunization and health requirements for school admission; attendance, payroll deduction; and sale, disposal and lease of board-owned real property.
The Dare County School Board will next meet in regular session on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022 at a place to be announced.
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