The Ohio High School Athletic Association's new rule allowing home-schooled students to participate in their resident public school district's athletic programs will present challenges for those districts, and Southwest Licking is no exception, said Superintendent Robert Jennell during the Sept. 19 school board meeting.
"We're really going to have to work on this," said Jennell. "We have to update our policy."
Neither the new state law mandating the change nor the OHSAA have provided much information as to how school districts should implement the new rule.
Board member Don Huber said the new policy could be good for home schooled children living within the district.
"It would make them feel more a part of the Southwest Licking school community," he said, adding that once the details are worked out, the district would be wise to provide home-school parents with a guidebook, explaining how their children could enroll in SWL sports and other programs.
"It's only fair to the families that we can spell that out and they know that the same rules apply for all of them," said Huber.
Formerly, Jennell said, home-schooled students living in the district were required to be physically enrolled in at least one class in a district building to participate in extracurriculars, including sports.
The state's new two-year state budget that went in effect July 1 prohibits such requirements.
Home-schooled students would be required to pay all the same fees as participating SWL students, to be on sports teams or in other district extracurriculars.
Jennell said part of the challenge is determining the grade level at which home-schooled students would participate in sports, since they aren't in formal grade levels.
"There are some pretty good athletes out there and we'd love to have them participate," said SWL Athletic Director John McGiffin Oct. 4. He said verification would be his biggest challenge.
"There are many factors to verify -- and we have to do that when they're not in a brick-and-mortar school building," he said.
McGiffin said all the home-schooled students who participate in SWL athletics must adhere to all the same standards as the rest of the athletes, including sustaining acceptable grades and qualifying physically for the program of their choice.
McGiffin said determining whether students "are really home-schooled" can be tricky. Technically, he said, some online education programs qualify the student as being enrolled in a school, even though the work is being completed from home.
McGiffin said currently three home-schooled students -- one of whom plans to enroll in SWL -- are participating in district sports, and receive great support from their teammates.
The new law puts the home-schooled students on equal footing, not set up for special consideration, he said.
"They have to pay their dues; they have to try out (to make athletic teams)," said McGiffin. "They are not afforded any advantages, per se."