Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No school band for home-school kid

Mom appeals to minister after request nixed

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Colin Winship wants to enrol in the school band program -- just like tens of thousands of other Manitoba children.

But the School District of Mystery Lake has rejected 11-year-old Colin's request to enrol in band at Thompson's Riverside Elementary School in the fall because he is home-schooled.

Mystery Lake school board chairman Rob Pellizzaro said in a prepared statement Colin is welcome to join the band program -- all he has to do is become a full-time public-school student. Otherwise, public-school programs are for public- school kids.

His mother, Caroline Winship, sent an appeal to Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum last week calling on Allum to overrule the Thompson school trustees.

But Allum's staff said admitting home-schooled children into public- school programs is entirely the local school board's call.

"We are not aware of any such authority" for the minister to overrule trustees, said an aide to Allum.

As of this school year, Allum's aide said, there are 25 home-schooled children enrolled in one or more programs in public schools around Manitoba. In each case, the local school board agreed to admit the child.

"We live 800 metres from the school," Winship said. "I've gone through the legislation with a fine-toothed comb.

"It's open to everybody," she insisted.

Winship said the family first contacted Riverside May 15 and appeared before Mystery Lake trustees May 27. The division sent the family a two-paragraph letter May 28 in which it said Colin can only enrol in the band program if he becomes a full-time public-school student.

Students going into Grade 6 in Riverside in September have already had their tryouts to determine which instrument they will learn.

Winship home-schools Colin and three siblings. He went to public school in Grade 1 for music and physical education, but since then, has been entirely home-schooled.

"He does have high-functioning autism, Asperger's," she said. "In this situation, it's irrelevant."

Winship said she has 275 signatures on a Facebook petition supporting Colin's being allowed to enrol.

"It is a board decision whether or not to admit a home-schooled student into a course at the local school," said Allum's aide. "When it comes to home-schooled children, parents have exercised their right to home-school their children and withdrawn them from public schools.

"Parents have a right to make the decision not to be part of the public- school system. Having elected to do so, however, they do not continue to have a 'right' to have their child attend the public school (unless they choose to de-register their child(ren) from home-schooling)," said the minister's staffer.

She did note the province will provide proportional funding to cover that home-schooled student in a public school, so money is not an issue -- but, she emphasized repeatedly, the local school board decides whether to accept a home-schooled child.

The province would not identify any of the 25 home-schooled kids in public schools, or identify the schools and areas in any way, but said some want a specific science or language credit.

Earlier this year, the Manitoba High Schools Athletics Association rejected a request from a home-schooled student to play on a varsity team at an unidentified public high school.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2014 A7

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