Need advice about Cyberschool and 504

Posted on: Thu, 01/26/2006 - 2:10pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Well, we've decided that getting an "official" school record for our dear child is advisable... besides, she's curious about what "real school" is like, and this seems a safe way to find out, since it is state-sanctioned and all.

Anyway, it appears that there are just about three places for allergy risk:

1. They apparently do "group field trips" periodically, though it isn't clear how frequent this is. I want some sort of indication that these need to be either safe or excused absences which we make up independently.

2. They send curricula and materials to you for completion at home. SO what if they want us to bake PB cookies or use eggshells for a mosaic project or something? I want someone THERE to send out appropriate materials and then we'll double check them on this end within a specified time as well.

3. They require annual on-site standardized testing (you know, NoChildGetsAhead and all that... [img][/img] ) I want to be certain that she is not placed in an empty cafeteria or nut processing facility somewhere, y'know? I also want to be in the room with her. This will ease her mind DRAMATICALLY during that process.

On the application, there is a question asking specifically about 504 or IEP/IHP designations. What do you guys think we should say there?

I'm not entirely sure how to proceed since we are currently not enrolled anywhere. I am not sure if I deal with the administrating agency (Connections Academy, a national cyberschool) or with the sponsoring school district here. What do you think? Should I wait and have all my documentation in hand when we even apply? I already asked at the allergist's about letters for 504 and it was hinted that this isn't exactly routine, but not problematic either.
Should I submit the application with the indication that we plan to pursue a 504 with them?

We REALLY like the idea of doing a 504 "lite" as a precedent. Shouldn't be a problem, we are thinking, since so much of the burden will really fall to us, and it should really be simple relative to most of yours. Besides, if they balk, we don't have to enroll her. What we are doing is working very well, TYVM, so we have nothing to lose by trying.
Your thoughts on how to proceed?

Posted on: Fri, 01/27/2006 - 2:48pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

We really don't want to err at the first step. I've seen enough to recognize how awful that makes the process later on. SO, since we obviously don't currently HAVE a 504 designation, do we
A. Apply without one and figure we'll get one as we go?
B. Let them know we plan to pursue one when we apply?
C. Insist on a 504 designation as a condition of DD's enrollment?

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 4:09am
Momcat's picture
Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

I don't have any experience with homeschooling, but it sounds like this is sponsored by the school district, so you should probably request a 504 by making an appointment with the principal of the school your child would ordinarily attend. Explain that you will be homeschooling but that accommodations are needed for group activities and for the testing environment. Show your doctor's letter.
There is probably someone in the district who coordinates the homeschool group activities and testing. This person should be included in the discussion of the accommodations.
I would think that you should be able to do this concurrently with the enrollment procedures for the cyberschool. But you should check with the cyberschool on that.
Good luck,
Mom to 6 1/2 yr old PA/TNA daughter and 3 yr old son who is allergic to eggs.

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 4:30am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Thank you for your opinion-- I realize fully that this is a very unusual situation relative to most. I appreciate insights into the process itself.
Yes, that is what I thought, too... but there is a complication. (of course, right?)
We don't LIVE within the district boundary of the sponsoring school district. We are served by the same ESD, (but it covers 3 counties, so I don't think it is relevent)... Anyway, this is why I'm not sure how to proceed. They serve the entire state under their charter, which is how we are eligible to apply for enrollment.
Obviously, they cannot deny us enrollment based on our request of a 504 evaluation, but I also don't want to start out on the wrong foot. It is a tiny, tiny school district out in the middle of nowhere about 1 hr away from us. (This is about 25 min from a COMMUNITY hospital located 45 min from us). After talking it over, we feel that the testing environment probably needs to be closer to medical care than that... maybe the ESD office which is closer, we were thinking.
They do have a "principal" listed with the district for the cyberschool. Is that who I should contact? Part of the reason for my confusion is that there doesn't seem to be any formal channel in existence for doing what we feel is needed. I mean, they are trying to entice HSers, so very few of them would already HAVE an IEP or 504, right? Probably they have a SE coordinator for the district as a whole... but that may not be the person's primary title.
I mean, we really think this is ideal in some ways because of the circumstances and the size of the district involved (put bluntly, we don't think they will want to fight over it much... given the resources needed to do so, KWIM?)... BUT this also means we have to figure out just HOW to go about doing this.
I guess I want to feel like I know what I am doing before I contact them... just in case they balk, I want to be ready.
Should I apply and leave the form blank w/r to IEP/504 status? They will contact us about it if we do, I am sure. Just isn't clear WHO will contact us.
Or should we attempt to contact the school district directly before we apply? Will this work if we aren't technically districted there??? [img][/img]
(I know that I may not get anyone who has direct experience here... but if you share your opinions, I'll share what happens to us!) [img][/img]

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 5:33am
toomanynuts's picture
Joined: 08/23/2003 - 09:00

I don't know if I have the right answers for you or not but instead of doing a Cyberschool. Why not join a homeschooling network or a private based school that would also take ISP students if you want to continue to teach at home. I believe with the field trips you could also go and with the testing you could mention beforehand you childs allergies and verify that it will be in a safe room.

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 7:34am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Thanks. I wish we HAD a homeschooling network here that was inclusive. We kind of "fall through the cracks" that way because we are neither religious nor wavy-gravy, and those are your two options w/r to other HSers here. We don't really have anything against public schools per se, which makes us REALLY weird in HSing circles.
I mean, we think academically, what we are doing is working GREAT. But we also are beginning to need external validation, as our daughter is highly gifted and we need for this to be independently verified so that programs like EPGY and the like will be open to her. I also have real trouble with formal art instruction, and we just aren't in a large enough area for those options to exist for DD outside of "school." External standards are something we feel our daughter needs to understand as well. Different pedagogy will also be helpful for her, we think.
Truthfully, DH and I are really reluctant to abandon Singapore Math. IMO there is NOTHING better... but it best suits gifted kids, so I understand why most schools don't use it.
Homebound options within our own district, while excellent, are quite limited in scope. Primarily they are High school level. DD's best placement is about 3rd grade, which no brick and mortar is going to be very happy about doing. This seems like a really awesome way for her to interact with kids who are academic peers without the associated risks. Chronological peers aren't the problem. She makes friends effortlessly, but MLTFA is a definite barrier to some of those developing much.
And we like being able to get the 504 when it ISN'T likely to be contentious... that way we already have the designation if we need it elsewhere later.

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 3:44pm
Momcat's picture
Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

I would just call up the principal of the cyberschool and ask about who to contact about a 504 evaluation. Hey, there's no harm in asking [img][/img]

Posted on: Sat, 01/28/2006 - 10:54pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Yes, that is what I have decided as well.
I'll get our physician's letter, submit our application (might call their national 800 number and ask what "504-eligible" students who haven't been in formal school settings should do with that part of form) and then contact the school's local representative via e-mail. (document, document, document) [img][/img] See? I HAVE been paying attention all this time. You guys are great!
Now... how to deal with allergist who has "agreed to disagree" with me on certain points...
We definitely qualify for 504, as DD's had two grade 4 anaphylaxis incidents, one to traces so small we could never track it down. Cardio involvement-- bad news. But she did not have asthma during either one. She went into shock and clearly had external signs of low BP and tachycardia, but no lower airway impairment... ER staff didn't check for anything but airway trouble either time... *sigh* (This error was recognized by two out of three allergists, BTW)
NOTE: see why hospital errors can come back to haunt you???
Allergist is an asthma specialist, so he doesn't consider DD's RAD to be "asthma" and probably won't say so in writing. He's never seen her when she's wheezy or coughing. Our GP, on the other hand, sees her when she's sick and DOES think she has asthma.... go figure.
I'll give him the OCR documentation about 504 eligibility and what we plan to ask school to do. I could draft something for him to sign, but then I run the risk of him getting irritated with us if he feels he's being manipulated. He doesn't believe in aerosol or contact reactions... even though he's seen what casual contact looks like. (They were ready to give her epi after an allergy shot one day. Neither of us was even that excited b/c we knew it was a contact rxn to something on the rug. [img][/img] Welcome to MY world, doc.)
Oh well. I'll cross this bridge when he gives me a letter I cannot use, I guess. Forever the pessimist, that's me!
Thanks for listening and offering suggestions. I'll let everyone know how it goes.

Posted on: Sun, 01/29/2006 - 1:38am
Momcat's picture
Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

If you're concerned about needing to having "breathing" (a major life activity) affected in order to qualify for 504, I think you can make just as convincing an argument that "normal cardiovascular function" is a "major life activity". You are not limited to their list of examples-- Another major life activity is "the ability to care for oneself". A young child may not have the skills or judgement to protect themselves from the allergen(s). A person of any age may need help administering medication during a reaction.
If you feel that breathing needs to be addressed, your doctor may feel more comfortable saying that past reaction history does not predict the type or severity of future reactions and that your child's breathing could be severely compromised if she were exposed to the allergen(s).
[This message has been edited by Momcat (edited January 29, 2006).]

Posted on: Wed, 02/01/2006 - 4:34pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I have invested much of the past three days putting together what I need in order to begin a 504 process so that my daughter can JUST MAYBE finally experience "school."
(disgusted) my tax dollars, hard at work again... for everyone but me. [img][/img]
Only to be waitlisted with about 70 (yes, 70!) other families. we cannot guarantee placement, yadda, yadda, yadda... continue your other schooling options.
Well, for us there are no other public options, but thanks.
My daughter, of course, is going to be heartbroken. My husband will be livid. This is the same issue that I JUST HATE HATE HATE HATE over and over and over again. "It's first come, first served..." and if we have to invest countless hours on special needs kids only to have them get bumped from the roll by people who think (on the spur of the moment) "Gee, why don't we sign up for THAT?" each time, well, then, that's just too bad. Happens again and again. DD got locked out of city ballet classes for almost a year because of this-- I couldn't register her until the instructor agreed in writing that I could stay during the class...
We can't possibly get a spot because we can't sign their little contract until we have a 504 plan in place... so we are de facto pretty much last on the list since our paperwork sits stagnant until we are officially enrolled or some such thing. But I can't sign something that says I'll drop my kid off for testing wherever they tell me to, can I? Because I won't. Can't.
Sorry... just ranting. I worked SOOOOO hard to make our allergist understand why we needed a 504 and now we can't even use all my work. [img][/img]
I'll have to call them tomorrow and find out if there is any chance in He** that we might get a slot... if not, I won't waste MY ALLERGIST'S time getting your crappy documentation. Too late for me. I've already wasted the last three days of MINE.
I'm mostly just mad because I know how much this meant to my little girl. Yet another "no." [img][/img]

Posted on: Wed, 02/01/2006 - 4:40pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

(rant edited...)
[This message has been edited by Corvallis Mom (edited February 04, 2006).]


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