Analysis

Five School Options For Parents And Children This Fall

But nothing is certain

Recent surveys have shown that almost one-third of parents are unsure whether they will return their children to in-person schooling this fall, with as many as 10% saying they’re likely to keep at least one child home.

Rapidly changing epidemic conditions and government responses have left parents with little but uncertainty as summer’s end draws closer. The alternatives that may be on the table include:

1. Traditional public schools

Parents can always enroll their children in the local public school district. Many also have the option of enrolling a child in a nearby district if it has space available (and if they can provide transportation).

Whether schools will open at all this fall may depend on where you live, and also on the judgments of public officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Teachers unions may also play a role in whether schools are allowed to open.

Under the governor’s epidemic response plan, the state is divided into eight regions, with COVID-19 risk levels assigned to each. Officials’ risk assessments will determine whether traditional public schools will open their doors to children at all, provide only online classes, or provide something in between. Every school district needs to be prepared for the different alternatives.

2. Charter schools

Charter schools are independently managed public schools that children are not assigned to by geography, but which parents can choose. They tend to be smaller and more flexible than conventional public school districts, and few are unionized. But they operate under the same standards as other public schools. Charter schools will be subject to most of the same restrictions as other schools in their region, but they will likely benefit from their greater flexibility.

3. Homeschooling

Homeschooling is always an option parents can choose, and many have been pressed by circumstances to adopt it. Under the law, parents are not required to enroll their children in a public or private school, but they are required to see that their children acquire an education. Nonprofit and commercial providers offer a broad range of homeschool options, including different methods, curriculums and standards. Some families have participated in home school co-ops, micro-schools, and cottage schools. Micro-schools consist of 5 to 10 children who get together for classes and extracurricular activities, and cottage schools engage slightly larger groups. Both are ways that some homeschool parents have found to pool resources and teach their children together.

4. Online schooling

Pure homeschooling is not an option available to many families, and the state and nation may be on the verge of a massive experiment in full-time, online public schooling. This is essentially homeschooling but with structure and and curriculum established by public schools and their teachers. Even before the epidemic, fully online public school classes have been available to most Michigan families, even if their own local school district has not offered online courses in the past. A state-funded education nonprofit called Michigan Virtual has a catalog from which middle and high school students anywhere in the state can select classes that count for credits, the same as in-person classes.

5. Hybrid options

Parents and school officials with concerns that online instruction alone will not provide children with a satisfactory education this fall are also investigating hybrid and blended online schooling options. A new School at Home in Michigan website looks into this more deeply and explains, “Some other educational options may include a part-time in-person component for families who are comfortable with that approach.”