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Wolf Creek home education program $65,000 under budget

Anna Brooks/ Lacombe Globe

Parents looking to homeschool their children through Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) may have to start looking elsewhere. With the home education program running a deficit of $65,000, WCPS trustees discussed whether or not the program should be closed down at last week's meeting.

Larry Jacobs, superintendent of WCPS, said the home education program originally had more than 100 students, and now they've dropped to around 23. With low numbers and the program running at such a large cost under the budget, Jacobs said it might be time to think about closing it.

"We went out of our way to try to make sure we had a very powerful appeal to come back into the schools - that's why the numbers (students enrolled) have dropped off," Jacobs explained.

Trustee Pam Hansen said she had talked to others in her community about the home education program in WCPS, and most of them had no idea it even existed. Hansen suggested marketing the program better to get more people involved, or scrap it altogether.

"Obviously some more research needs to be done to see if we can close it, but I do think right now is a time to market it," Hansen said. "It's important parents that are homeschooling know it's available through Wolf Creek."

Lorrie Jess, Ward 2 trustee, chose to homeschool her children, but said that she didn't register with WCPS because she didn't want to be pressured into putting her kids in public school.

"No disrespect," Jess joked. "But we got enough of that from the general population. That's the conundrum with home school. If you're into it, you're into it, and you don't want the pressure of re-entering your child back into the system."

According to data compiled from surveys of parents who homeschool their children, almost 50 per cent said they do so because they feel their child can get a better education at home. The other 50 per cent varied from religious reasons to dissatisfaction with public school curriculums.

Trustee Barb Walker said regardless of the reason, she doesn't feel it's the board's job to support homeschooling if it's costing them money. She added if the home education program was paying for itself, then it should be something WCPS can offer to the community, but otherwise, it might not be needed.

"I think that by virtue of teaching them at home, you're opting out of the public school system," Walker said. "If the program was paying for itself, then that's something we could offer, but I just feel it's not something we should be spending money that we don't have on."

Even though the board chose to close Satinwood School recently for very similar reasons - high cost and low enrolment - vice chair of the board Bob Huff vehemently defended the home education program, and said he feels "very strongly that we should be providing that option to the community."

"I think it behoves us as a public education institution to do it," Huff said. "It falls in with what inspiring education is - education anywhere, any pace, any time. I think the homeschooling element is something we don't want to lose."

The board was not able to reach a conclusion on the discussion, and moved that superintendent Jacobs get some more information regarding WCPS home education before any sort of action is taken.

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