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School Board Sets Homeschool Rules

Westport parents who plan to homeschool their children will not only be required to file the appropriate forms, but also must complete a yearly portfolio review with a district administrator. The Board of Education voted Monday night to make these procedures into policy.

Until now, such procedures were guidelines suggested by the state, Cynthia Gilchrest, director of pupil services, told the board at the Sept. 20 meeting. That was the first time the board discussed instituting a homeschooling policy.

"We [the district] have a responsibility to educate children ages 5 to 18, but parents do have the right to make the decision to educate their children at home," Gilchrest said last week. "Basically, what the policy outlines will now be a policy in the board policy book."

Under the new policy, parents must file a notice of intent to homeschool form. Parents of 5- and 6-year-olds who wish to keep their children out of school must file a waiver, Gilchrest said.

"Parents must come in and meet with me personally. When I meet with them, I make sure they understand what we have here in our schools and then they sign waiver," she said. When a child turns 7, he or she must be enrolled in school unless the parents plan to homeschool. Parents of 16- and-17-year-olds who withdraw from the district must sign documents, Gilchrest said.

The second major policy requires parents to meet with Gilchrest annually for a portfolio review.

"At the end of the year, those children come in with their parents and I go through what they've done that year," she said.

According to Gilchrest, seven to 10 students are homeschooled in Westport for "a variety of reasons," religious reasons being one. The call to turn these procedures into policy was made to ensure all students in Westport receive a quality education, Gilchrest said.

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