Amid concerns for student safety and quality of instruction at public institutions this school year, some parents have begun to consider alternative education options for their children in the fall.

“Without a great deal of clarity right now,” Waunakee superintendent Randy Guttenberg said, “we’re having a lot of questions about what options families have for delivery of education – be it a public school, a private school or a homeschooling option.”

Director of Curriculum Tim Schell advised those considering homeschooling to do research first.

“Homeschooling your child is a very serious decision,” Schell said. “And if a family wasn’t having a conversation about homeschooling their child six months ago, they would need to very carefully evaluate what goes into that. It’s a big decision.”

According to HOMER, the home-based-education reporting database maintained by the DPI, only 13 families in the Waunakee school district home-schooled their children in 2019-20.

Statewide, it had the third-smallest percentage of its students educated at home in 2018-19.

“Both nationally and here in Waunakee,” Schell said, “we have some households who have chosen to home-school their children. And they’ve done that after careful consideration of the responsibilities that entails on the part of the family and the educational goals for their child.”

Other parents have discussed the possibility of enrolling their child in a charter school, where the institution is free from most state rules and regulations.

Such schools have taken the form of traditional brick-and-mortar, as well as virtual formats.

“Districts that have a charter do it for very specific reasons,” Guttenberg said. “Having a charter comes with some additional costs, staffing and a philosophy of wanting to use it as a tool for recruitment of kids from other districts.”

Executive Director of Operations Steve Summers said although charter students are counted in their home district’s enrollment count, the cost of their education must be paid to the receiving district.

“We are responsible to pay the cost determined by the state to the other district,” Summers said. “This amount for 2020-21 is estimated to be $8,125 for a regular ed student and $12,977 for a special education student.”

Guttenberg said that the Waunakee school district offers no charter for a reason.

“We felt that we could provide many of the same programs that a charter would,” Guttenberg said. “So from our perspective, being a growing community and one where we’re putting efforts toward serving all of our resident students, we just didn’t feel a charter was the direction to go.”

The superintendent said the district provides a wide range of virtual options for students seeking online education, or parents who may be concerned about in-person instruction.

“Many districts – including us – have a full catalog of virtual courses that we can offer,” Guttenberg said. “So if you’re looking at a student who may need some level of a virtual option for a class, we have the ability to provide that… Touch base with the school district.”

The district administrator can be reached via e-mail at RandyGuttenberg@waunakee.k12.wi.us.

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