PAL program may lose 3/5s of student roster

POULSBO — Charlotte Edwards was enrolled for two years in the North Kitsap School District’s Parent Assisted Learning program, which assists homeschooled students.

The homeschool program was a better fit for Charlotte, who is an accelerated student, her mother Michelle said.

With changes coming to the PAL program, however, Charlotte could be one of many students who will not enroll with the program for the 2013-14 school year.

During the PAL picnic June 10 at Raab Park, estimates of the number of K-8 students not returning to the program were between 30-40.

An average of 62 students were enrolled in the K-8 PAL program this year, according to district Director of Elementary Education Patricia Moore. An average of 32 students were enrolled in the 9-12 section of the program.

For each PAL student, the North Kitsap School District receives 90 percent of the funding it would get for a full-time student from state, federal and other funding sources — if that student is meeting all requirements. A full-time student brings in about $6,000.

Michelle Edwards is pulling Charlotte out of the district and enrolling her in Washington Virtual Academies through the Omak School District. It’s not because Edwards and other families want to leave, but because they are uncertain what the PAL program will look like next year.

Charlotte doesn’t want to leave. Every week this year, Charlotte participated in Monday classes with other PAL students in the portables behind the North Kitsap Community Pool. She liked having a classroom that wasn’t at home, she said. There were also clubs, such as chess, soccer and drama, that gave her extra activity. She would prefer not having all online classes, she said.

“I did like the clubs a lot,” Charlotte said as she took a break from the playground at Raab Park.

Dawn Pryde, a parent of three, said she is planning to enroll her children in the Quilcene School District’s homeschool program, P.E.A.R.L. The program is also done online.

Dawn and Michelle will interact with instructors via email in order to make sure their children are kept up-to-speed and so they can communicate any questions they may have.

The district is aware students are being pulled out of the program, Moore said. Included in reasons students are being pulled out, Moore said: Changes to staffing, and consolidating the program at Kingston Middle School.

The program will become a K-12 program, with one person instead of three heading the program, Moore said. By consolidating and moving the program to portables outside KMS, it will be easier to oversee and will cut back on expenses. Moore said the district wants to ensure students’ needs are being met, while complying with Washington Administrative Code.

“We are saddened by the fact that they will not come back,” Moore said of departing students. “What we want to do is offer [a] rigorous, compliant and an effective system,” she said.

Moore said the district will look to “build the program back up again.”

In a letter to parents dated June 10, 2013, Moore wrote, “the upcoming change in location to Kingston Middle School and the uncertainty as to format for the PAL Program classes this fall add difficulties to your planning process.”

The district will know what the PAL program will look like by the end of August, she wrote. Some components of the program will remain intact.

Though the district is working with parents to show what the program could look like, Edwards said the unknowns are too great to enroll next year. Along with loss of clubs, she’s worried there will be fewer volunteers. The teachers, she said, don’t know what they can offer. And some students who opted to be homeschooled may not be comfortable with the move or interacting with students much older than they are.

“We don’t even know what the [school] day is going to look like,” Edwards said. “It’s just crazy.”


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