Parents opting to home-school beyond closures add to school finance concerns

Districts urge family engagement and support

“We are going to use our digital tools to entice them, to engage them,” said Luvelle Brown, superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in Ithaca, New York. “We’ve got everything from office hours that educators are offering up to dance parties that we provide for all young people in the digital space to connect with.”

Brown said the district is really honing in on its focus to provide a culturally responsive and inclusive education for students, particularly those of color in the majority-white[3] district of 6,000 students. The materials used in remote learning activities will continue to reflect students’ cultural backgrounds and identity, just like the materials they have access to at home now. 

“It’s a continuation of what we have been doing,” he said. “Those same conversations that we’re having in a brick and mortar building, we’re having in a digital environment, too.”

In Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the district has utilized its parent liaisons to engage families. They have active roles “helping parents learn and know how to access resources and information to make distance learning easier,” a spokeswoman said in an email.

Neither district knows what next school year will look like, but they’re preparing for multiple options — and one of those could see children continuing to attend classes online for the second semester in a row.

“As a school district, we are now organizing and preparing for all scenarios, and if home-schooling is an option that folks want because they have the time and privilege to do so, I’m going to support that, and I have supported that,” Brown said, though he stands by public schools.

In Ithaca, one option leaders are considering is a hybrid model, in which students will split their time between their homes and their classrooms. Brown said that could be attractive to parents who have considered home-schooling if things go unchanged.

He’s not particularly worried, however, about the impact students leaving would have on funding. Funding has always been an issue public school leaders have had to navigate, he said, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

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