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Santa Barbara School District Offers Home-School Option

The unique move is partly an effort to help improve the limping fiscal fortunes of the K-12 system.

The Santa Barbara School District is rolling out a rare home-schooling option for families, partly in an effort to help improve its limping fiscal fortunes.

Called “Home School Santa Barbara,” the program, which the district announced Friday in a press release, would provide each family with a “mentor teacher” who would pay periodic visits to the homes in an effort to get to know the educational needs of each student.

The unique program was designed by Pat Morales, who recently retired as principal of Peabody Charter School in the San Roque neighborhood.

The mentors’ level of involvement would depend on the needs and wishes of each family, ranging from an advisory role to “almost complete administration of the learning process,” Barbara Keyani, communications director for the K-12 Santa Barbara public school system, said in a press release.

Interested families are invited to attend one of two informational meetings. The first, for elementary-age students, will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the new main office for Home School Santa Barbara, 487 N. Turnpike Road. The second, for junior high and high school students, will be at the same time and location on May 20.

Registration will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 3 and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 12.

Friday’s announcement comes during hard financial times for the Santa Barbara district and others across the state, largely because of the housing crisis in California and beyond that helped put a $16 billion hole in the state budget.

In Santa Barbara, the school board last month laid off about 50 teachers and cut $4.1 million from its $93 million discretionary budget for the 2008-09 school year.

Meanwhile, the home-school plan was mentioned as a recommendation in a fiscal recovery report for the district, Keyani said. The plan is financially prudent, officials said, because the vast majority of districts are paid by the state based on enrollment – generally, to the tune of about $5,500 a year per pupl. As such, retaining students who otherwise would have left the district for home-schooling – and luring back those who have already left – saves money.

Keyani said the program was initiated by the district, not parent demand. She added that it is based loosely on a similar program in Lompoc.

The philosophy for Home School Santa Barbara would be based on the belief that children grow and learn in different ways, Keyani said. The educational path for students in kindergarten through 12th grade would be fashioned around each student’s individual needs, goals and interests. A key element of the program would be the availability of resources, network and support groups.

Morales has been in education for 36 years, the past 16 years with the Santa Barbara School District as principal of Peabody. After her retirement, she briefly served at Washington School and recently worked as a consultant to principals.

For more information on Home School Santa Barbara, contact Morales at [email protected] or 805.896.2634.

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