The Wilkes Board of Education is considering letting local home-schooled students participate in athletics as members of local high school teams.

Policy 3625, “Dual Enrollment for Athletic Participation,” was discussed as a proposal at the school board meeting Monday night. Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd said it will be on the agenda for action at the Dec. 2 school board meeting.

Byrd said the proposed policy resulted from the N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Board of Directors’ May 1 approval of a policy addressing home school student participation in high school athletics. An NCHSAA press release said the new NCHSAA policy established uniform rules and guidelines for this and noted that home schoolers already participate in high school athletics in some districts.

Byrd said Wilkes school officials decided that a policy was needed aligning the Wilkes County Schools with the new NCHSAA guidelines, but with “any local requirements that we felt necessary.”

He said the Wilkes schools started following NCHSAA guidelines for home school student participation in high school athletics this school year, “so this will be in effect immediately if approved.”

Policy 3625 states that to participate in Wilkes high school athletics, a home school student must reside in Wilkes and become dually-enrolled in the Wilkes schools in accordance with Wilkes school board procedures and policies.

The proposed policy says that for a home school student to participate in high school athletics, he or she must have “a class schedule within a Wilkes County high school that is at least one half of the school’s instructional day. Further, at least one class must be taken on campus.”

The NCHSAA press release said that under its new policy, “Home school students enrolled in a public school can participate in athletics at that school if they take classes at the school for at least half the day. At least one of those classes must be on campus each semester.”

Wilkes School Athletic Director Chris Skabo said requiring at least one class on campus helps school officials monitor progress of home school students and maintain communication with them.

Byrd said that in addition to the class that must be on campus, home school students could meet requirements of Policy 3625 by taking Wilkes County Schools online classes, N.C. Virtual Public School classes or classes offered online or at one of the high schools through Wilkes Community College.

School board member Sharron Huffman asked if a home school student who utilizes Policy 3625 must do so at the high school serving the area of Wilkes in which he or she lives. Huffman also asked if the student would be subject to random drug testing like other Wilkes high school athletes. Skabo said yes to both questions.

Policy 3625 requires that a home school student planning to try out for a Wilkes high school team notify in writing the appropriate school principal (or principal’s designee) of this intention at least 10 days before the team’s first practice session. It says failure to maintain continuous dual enrollment results in the home school student’s ineligibility for athletics at all NCHSAA member high schools for 365 days.

Policy 3625 also says that for a home school student to be eligible for Wilkes high school athletics, he or she must:

• provide a nationally standardized achievement test, taken within the last year and presented at least 10 days before the first practice session, showing the student’s overall grade level proficiency. If below the grade level for the year it was taken, the student isn’t eligible;

• take at least two home school classes pre-approved by the student’s assigned Wilkes school per semester, earn at least three academic credits per semester and meet Wilkes school promotion standards;

• “present a home school card from the Division of Non-Public Education for previous and current year, an attendance record and an immunization record;

• “pass all Wilkes County high school classes in which the student is enrolled;

• “meet all other applicable NCHSAA rules and Wilkes County School athletic policies and regulations.”

Policy 3625 also says a home school student must submit proof of being enrolled in a registered home school for 365 days prior to being eligible to participate in athletics in a Wilkes County high school.

The NCHSAA press release said this prohibits students from leaving one high school, enrolling as a home school student and immediately playing sports at another high school. Under the new NCHSAA policy, a home school student becomes ineligible for high school athletics for 365 days if he or she ceases being dual enrolled.

Byrd said home school students already participate in driver’s education through the Wilkes schools. He said Policy 3625 “only addresses high school students wanting to participate in athletics at this time, so it does not allow for students for other reasons or at lower grade levels.”

Dual enrollment policies vary in public school districts in counties adjoining Wilkes.

Home school students must take at least two classes at Watauga High School per semester to dual enroll there. They must take three classes to participate in athletics, clubs or other extra-curricular activities at Watauga High, with at least one being a seated class. Online courses through N.C. Virtual Public School are an option, plus juniors and senior home schoolers can take classes through Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute.

Home school students can participate in Elkin High School athletics if they take at least three classes per semester and meet all NCHSAA requirements. Home school students in grades seven to 12 can enroll in courses and participate in certain other academic and extra-curricular activities in the Elkin City Schools. A tuition fee is required for those who live outside the Elkin School District. It’s free to home school students living within the district.

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