Updated: Feb 12, 2020
by Jamie Buckland, Legislative Liaison for R.E.A.C.H.
Right now in West Virginia when a student is 6 years old by July 1st, they need to be enrolled in school. It is compulsory. Mandated. Must happen.
If you aren’t choosing public school, you can enroll them into private school. These details come back up later, so it is an important piece to the large puzzle!
If you aren’t choosing public or private, then your child can be exempt from attending by exercising your parental right to homeschool. That right is protected by WV Code 18-8-1 § C
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the question of athletics.
Out of 55 counties in West Virginia, I have been told that only 3 currently offer their 3rd through 5th graders volleyball and basketball programs. Concerns about late nights and high expenses have resulted in counties choosing to do away with those traditions.
Raleigh County and Wyoming County, to my knowledge, are two which still offer children 3rd through 5th those opportunities. At this time, they are only available to children enrolled and attending that school.
According to W.Va. Code R. § 127-2-3.4.a., students become eligible beginning in 6th grade at member schools.
What is a member school?
May I introduce you to West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. They are the guys who work incredibly hard to oversee athletics and band for students in West Virginia.
Public or private schools become members of the WVSSAC in order to have teams participate in the following:
They refer to the definition of a student listed in W.Va. Code R. § 127-2-6 which requires students to be enrolled in the equivalent of 4 content area courses toward graduation.
You can read more about that at the link, but for the sake of clarity, I’ll attempt to summarize.
Scenario - Joey is a homeschooler entering 6th grade. Joey wants to play basketball. Joey lives in Mercer County. Mercer County has adopted Virtual Education Program Policy I-15 to provide parents with another school choice. However, it is only available for students in 9th through 12th grade.
You can learn more about Virtual School here.
According to Derek Lambert, Student Success Coordinator for the Department of Education, Policy 2510, which is on the board agenda, would require all counties to offer full time virtual school for grades 3-12. Should this get passed by the state board, it would go into effect in the fall of 2020.
So Joey does not currently have an option to enroll in virtual school to be eligible while in 6th grade.
However, Joey could ENROLL and ATTEND a brick and mortar member school part-time and be eligible for WVSSAC. There are other requirements to be eligible. To enroll in virtual school or public school, the child would need to be vaccinated. To be eligible, they would also need to maintain the 2.0 GPA.
Joey’s parents hold out hope for homeschooled students to soon have the right to prove eligibility for WVSSAC.
Now, to be fair, some counties may offer virtual school for 6th-8th graders. If they do, part-time enrollment, defined as taking 4 virtual courses, could make Joey eligible if his county had that in place.
Friday night lights. Clean sneakers squeaking on the basketball court. Victories. These are things I truly desire to experience with my babes. And I believe that WV is capable of respecting my freedom to design my children’s curriculum while simultaneously offering my children the right to be eligible for WVSSAC programs. I do not believe they need me to sacrifice the autonomy of my homeschool in order for my children to have the right to prove they can meet academic requirements necessary for eligibility.
Scenario - Tommy is a homeschooler entering 9th grade in Mercer County. Tommy can take 2 block courses at his zoned school, maybe it is Pikeview or Princeton High, and along with meeting the GPA and medical requirements, can try out for WVSSAC programs.
Tommy can also take a block course at the school and 2 virtual school courses at home.
Tommy can take 4 virtual school courses and be ENROLLED but not have to ATTEND.
Tommy is still on record with the board as needing an assessment to satisfy state code as a homeschooler, however, Tommy is enrolled as a part-time student in WV public schools.
I have not received clarification on whether this is by semester or by year at this time. I will edit once I have more information.
I hope you’re getting the idea.
At this time, can a homeschooler be eligible for WVSSAC athletics?
Well, not according to WVSSAC. Their slides from their workshop held in September 2019 state, “Home school students can participate if enrolled at a member school in their attendance area and taking the equivalent of four content area courses toward graduation (either on site or virtually).
So ask yourself, can one be a homeschooler and be enrolled in a member school at the same time?
WVSSAC may argue yes. They may say that because your assessment would still be required as a homeschooler, you are not considered a public school student.
But if you’re on record as exempt from school as homeschooler, what does it make you when you’re only exempt part-time?
So, one might ask this question, “What is the difference between a virtual student and a homeschooled student?”
And I might have to answer, “Funding.”
Once a student is enrolled, the school which they are connected to receives a portion of funding for that part-time student.
Now, the virtual school student does not have to attend the school. They do not have to walk the halls. They do not have to have “skin in the game”, which is what opposition of Tim Tebow legislation like to claim. They just have to enroll part-time so that the school can get more funding, and to be fair, so that the Department of Education can have some level of control over the academic commitment of the student.
In my next post, I will walk through SB 131 which has passed the Senate and is currently waiting to be added to the House Education Committee's agenda.