Q&A with Deer Park

On August 11th, the Deer Park administration held a meeting to answer any questions parents might have about what Deer Park Homelink will look like this fall.  We hope you will find this information helpful in making a choice for your children.
Answering questions at this meeting were:  Carol VanWormer, Principal of Homelink; Becky Cooke, Superintendent; Kara LaVoie, scheduler extraordinaire; Eric Keller, School Board President; Jeff Whittle, School Board Member; Joanne Greer, School Board Member
The following information was handed out prior to the meeting:
New State Requirements:
·         Students are required to have one hour of face-to-face contact with a certified teacher each week.
·         Districts are no longer allowed to pay for private lessons.
·         The district’s ability to pay for group lessons (off-site) is still to be determined at a meeting on Aug. 26.
·         Curriculum must be purchased by the district through purchase orders (this will begin Aug 17, and parents are strongly encouraged to check the resource library for their desired curriculum before making duplicate purchases).
Changes at Homelink:
·         Preferred limit of 5 classes per student, with the exception of academic students and those that feel they need special consideration.
·         Three fewer weeks for enrichment classes only (1 week late start, extra week off at Christmas break, 2 weeks off for state testing due to a new online computer testing method).  Academic classes will still meet those three weeks.
·         No hot lunch or breakfast program (based on parent input; unrelated to budget cuts).  No morning or afternoon buses.  There WILL continue to be a lunch bus between buildings.
·         School day ends at 3:00 rather than 3:25.
·         Our goal is to keep the curriculum allotment at $500 and ensure that you have the curriculum that you need.
Question and Answer Time
Q:  How will registration be different this year?
A:  Students will register for only three classes on their first day of registration (including academic classes) and fill out their schedules during open registration.  This will allow newer families to experience some of the more high-demand classes sooner.
Q:  Won’t waiting to fill in our schedules just leave our kids in Computer Lab and Library?
A:  The seats available for most classes have been increased, allowing for more room for students, which should offset the change in registration procedure.
Q:  Won’t registering for just three classes at first leave students with more seniority in the program just classes that they’ve taken already?
A: There are so many newly offered classes this year, we don’t feel that will be a problem.
Q:  When I look at this year’s schedule online there are a number of classes being taught by “Staff Staff”.  What does that mean?
A:  That just means the instructor for that class has not yet been entered into the district database, there are teachers assigned to each class listed in the schedule.  “Staff Staff” does not mean there is no teacher available.
Q:  If academic classes are meeting during the three “off” weeks, but not enrichment classes, what does my academic student if they have an enrichment class sandwiched between two academic classes?
A:  All academic classes during those three weeks will be held at Clayton, and if they have a gap due to an enrichment class, they are welcome to go home with parents or utilize the library or computer lab.
Q:  What’s the plan for ballet at Homelink?
A:  Last year’s teacher is likely returning, but we have a backup plan in place should that change at the last minute.
Q:  Will advanced dance students be pre-enrolled?
A:  Yes, that is the plan, although it never works perfectly so please call the teacher or Homelink if something needs changed.
Q:  If a parent has a teaching certificate can they provide the face-to-face requirement for their child(ren)?
A:  No.  The certificated teacher must be employed by the district.  If you are unable to fulfill this obligation by enrolling you child(ren) in at least one class taught by a certificated teacher, noted on the schedule with a (c), there will be a 6th period class offered from 3:00 to 4:00 that will provide this contact.  That class will not count as one of your 5 class choices.
Q:  Will remedial classes with a certificated teacher count as face-to-face time?
A:  Yes, as long as the teacher documents that time.
Q:  Can curriculum allotment be used for running start?
A:  No.  State law does not allow college to be paid for with public school dollars.  There have been state cuts to the running start programs as well and while it is not the bargain it once was, it is still a very good option for students.  Those families that qualify for free or reduced lunch are still eligible to have fees waived.
Q:  Are tutoring costs covered by allotment?
A:  This is another question that will be answered Aug 26.
Q:  What about consumable materials, the new legislation seems to say they’re not allowed?
A:  We recognize that education, especially for younger students, often requires workbooks and similar consumable materials and feel it is important to offer these to families.  This is another question that will be answered on Aug 26.
Q:  Will online academic classes be offered?
A:  Homelink would like to further explore that option, possibly using K12, but with the budget considerations this year many programs are out of our reach at this time.
Q:  Since hot lunch has been discontinued, will there be a sack lunch option for free and reduced lunch families?
A:  That is a great suggestion, and the district will look into it!
Q:  What about changes to testing requirements?
A:  The federal government is currently re-evaluating these mandates and we are all hoping that the AYP status that led to requiring Homelink students to test will be removed, which would change how Homelink handles state testing in the future.
Q:  Why can CVA, East Valley and other programs not require testing right now?
A:  Larger programs can more readily afford the zeros of students that do not test, Homelink is 20% of the Deer Park district and so our numbers greatly affect the results given to the state.
Q:  If my consultant has been laid off, what happens to my children?
A:  First, we are trying to hire back consultants that were laid off, but that will partially depend on enrollment numbers.  Second, we still have consultants available and your children will be reassigned to one of these.
Q:  What is the target for student/staff ratio?
A:  Ideally, we would like to see about 50 students per consultant, unfortunately this year we’ll still be at a ratio of about 80 or 90 students to one consultant.
Q:  Is there a certain number of students Homelink needs to have enrolled in order to make good on the offers of curriculum allotment, class offerings, etc.?
A:  Certainly a lot depends on enrollment numbers, our hope is that we can provide for students’ needs regardless of enrollment, but as with any program, the more students you have the more income and resources you have.
Q:  If it all just comes down to money, why was East Valley’s offer to transition and take over the program rejected?
A:  We feel that Deer Park Homelink is an important part of the district and the community.  We have worked hard the last 10 years to create the unique atmosphere we have and we value your commitment to the program.  Because of this, we thought it was important to resolve the budget issues within the district and keep Homelink as a part of our community.