As I think I have shared before, I have been homeschooling my oldest son on and off since he was in 5th grade. For the past two years, he has had his curriculum provided by the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Public Schools. There are a lot of homeschool families who don’t consider this type of schooling “homeschooling.” In fact, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had allowed this program in Greenfield as an Innovation Schools project, and allowed children to be enrolled under School Choice. But since my son was at home and doing school, and since we maintained somewhat of a flexible learning schedule, I had always looked at it as just another option for my child to access a standardized curriculum.
Virtual schooling is not for everyone, but for the past two years, it was a reasonable option in Massachusetts for many children who needed a more challenging curriculum, had a medical issue, had unique learning differences or were being bullied, and provided an option for parents who might not otherwise choose to have their children receive their education at home. One thing I have learned about homeschooling parents – we are a fierce, resourceful, educated and powerful group of parents! That can be intimidating for parents who might lack the confidence to dive in to homeschooling head-first.
In January, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Act Establishing Commonwealth Virtual Schools (MCVS). This will allow up to 10 schools in Massachusetts apply to serve up to 20,000 students who may need this kind of alternative. For supporters of virtual schooling, this is a Hooray moment right? Not so fast! The Greenfield Public School Committee was not quite so excited. Evidently, when the Governor signed this piece of legislation, it also set into motion an end-date for the Innovation Virtual Schools: July 1, 2013, and the Committee was not too happy about being asked to set up a separate Board of Trustees to run the school that they had supported, taken heat over, embraced, fought about and pioneered. The Request for Proposal which is due back to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on March 25 was voted against, 5-2. This was a huge surprise to those who had supported the establishment and running as well as the staff and the parents of the school.
In short, this will mean that 475 students will not have a school to go to in the fall of 2013. Parents, including myself, have been trying to figure out what happened and trying to find out if there is any solution for the MAVA students. Whether you believe in this kind of schooling or not, whether you have issues with a private company with a questionable track record should be allowed to provide software to public schools, whether you think traditional homeschooling is better, you have to agree that this was badly done.
At this point, as parents it doesn’t matter too much who messed up. Some things seem to have gone awry, such as 1) the District should have been paying much closer attention to the legislation; 2) the District should have informed and involved parents in the legislative process so that we could advocate for what we felt was best for our kids; 3) the School Committee should have postponed their vote in order make a more informed decision on what the repercussions would be; 4) the Legislators and/or DESE should have (perhaps) involved Greenfield in the process – I could go on and on.
The parents have come together. They have organized a letter-writing campaign, a petition, made phone calls and written the newspapers. We are being told by the School Committee that they will not be changing their decision and that the parents should contact their legislators and the DESE to ask for the end date to be changed to 2014. We did. They are telling us that legislation can’t be changed and that Greenfield will have to return the RFP by March 25th. Period. In addition, they think that Greenfield doesn’t want a school, since they voted against returning the RFP. So what we have is the agencies drawing lines in the sand, and nearly 500 kids without a school to go to in the fall.
Someone needs to do something.
Please watch and share with #savemava
We’re asking the powers that be to please come together and work out a compromise. You can help us by checking our our website and sharing our video with the hashtag #savemava.