Guest Columnist - Debbie Patch
PCSing… Got Kids? This is for you!
Summer is here! School is out! And for many families, the time spent during the next two months will be filled with summer camps, day trips to the beach and afternoons at the park. There are many families however, that will be using this time to pack or unpack household goods, to become acquainted with a new city, and/or to find out about the local school district where they have just relocated to. For military families, this is their constant reality. Military families PCS (Permanent Change of Station) an average of every two to three years and these transitions often bring about emotions that can “bounce” between excitement and trepidation; but as the initial reactions subside, reality steps in and preparations begin.
School Liaison Officers……Who are they?One of the many questions that begin to emerge from both parents and children is, “Where will I go to school?” Responding to the need for facilitators and mentors to support military families as they make these transitions, the Department of Defense has established a nation-wide support network of professionals called School Liaison Officers to help military service men and women work through the educational issues that face students and their parents as they move from place to place. With military children experiencing between 6 and 9 different schools (on average) from K-12, and each state requiring standards that are not consistent across the nation, military families often find the “school” aspect of moving to be confusing and stressful. The School Liaison Officer or SLO, as they are commonly referred to, can be found on most military installations regardless of service. While they have many duties, their primary focus is to be a local educational resource for military parents and the Installation Commander, and to be a military connection for local school personnel.
Interstate Compact… What is it?
One important initiative that all military parents should be familiar with is The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (Interstate Compact). The Compact was developed by the Department of Defense with assistance from The Council of State Governments to replace widely varying school issues, with a uniform policy, to be followed in every state that chooses to join. In 2009, the Commonwealth of Virginia General Assembly incorporated the Compact into state law, and to date there are a total of 43 states that have adopted the compact and joined the Commission. The goal of the Compact is to ensure that the school-aged children of our Armed Forces service members experience a seamless transition between states belonging to the Commission. The Compact addresses major school transition issues identified by military families such as enrollment, placement, eligibility and graduation.
Virginia Interstate Compact for Military Children
|What is included?||Parents can receive a copy of the unofficial records and the new school MUST accept these to enroll.||Initial placement in AP and/or other advanced classes will be granted based on the student’s enrollment in the sending state.||If the parent is deployed, the school cannot charge tuition to a military student placed in care of a non-custodial parent or “in loco parentis” and that student can continue to attend their current school.||Waiving courses required for graduation if similar course work has been completed in another school.|
|Sending school MUST send official records within 10 days of receiving new school request||The school may later perform an evaluation to ensure appropriate placement.||If a parent is deployed, the power of attorney for guardianship is sufficient for enrollment and all other actions requiring parental participation or consent.||Flexibility in accepting the sending state’s exit or end of course exams, national achievement tests or alternative testing in lieu of state testing requirements for graduation.|
|Students are given 30 days from enrollment to obtain required immunizations.||School must provide opportunity for participation in extracurricular activities regardless of deadlines as long as the child is otherwise qualified.||Allowing a student to receive a diploma from the sending school as an alternative to accommodate for exit exams and graduation requirements that the student doesn’t have time to meet.|
|A student may go to the next grade regardless of age requirements, if he/she has completed kindergarten or 1st grade in sending state; or remain in kindergarten or 1st grade if he/she has already enrolled in those grades in a state accredited school in the sending state.|
|What is not covered?||Receiving unofficial records free of charge.||Although the school must demonstrate reasonable accommodation, there is no requirement to create a new course, additional space or offer anything above what is stated in the IDEA.||Although the school must demonstrate reasonable accommodation, there is no requirement to hold, open, or create additional spaces for extracurricular activities if none are available.||Mandatory waivers… although schools must show good cause for a denial of waiver.|
|Since TB testing is NOT an immunization, TB testing may be required before enrollment.||Mandatory waivers of prerequisites or preconditions (though a nicety) are not a requirement.||The eligibility coverage only applies to situations during deployment. This does not apply when a parent has a permanent change of station and leaves the child behind.||The right of parent(s) to request a change to state graduation requirements.|
Did you know?
There are approximately 22,000 military-connected students attending Virginia Beach City Public Schools and there are 3 School Liaison Officers available to help support these families. Two SLOs are attached to Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek-Fort Story and one is located at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana/Dam Neck Annex. A phone call or visit to the local SLO once new orders are received, can provide valuable information on “what to expect” from the education system at your next duty station. If you have already PCS’d, but didn’t make an earlier connection, connecting with the SLO can help you become acquainted with the schools in your area and answer any questions you may have.
Debbie PatchJEB Little Creek-Fort Story (Little Creek)757.462.4483
Vernell KilpatrickJEB Little Creek-Fort Story (Fort Story)757.422.7101 ext 238
John HammerNAS Oceana/Dam Neck Annex757.438.3670
The Office of Community Relations in Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) works closely with the Military School Liaison Officers (SLOs) at each of our bases to facilitate partnership, mentorship and volunteer opportunities between schools and our local commands. Many exemplary programs with military partners have been recognized by the school division as Model Partnerships (see vbschools.com to learn more about these partnerships). Military Welcome Packets are also provided by the school system for students and their families to help to make the transition process as easy as possible for new transfers. The military SLOs also have an excellent working relationship with the VBCPS Department of Curriculum and Instruction to help ensure that every effort is made to implement the Military Interstate Compact. The Compact is designed to help military students navigate the different curricular and graduate requirements they encounter when they move from state to state. Virginia Beach Superintendent James G. Merrill serves as a member of Virginia’s Military Interstate Compact Committee.
Debbie Patch has been the School Liaison Officer for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story since February 2011. She has been a military dependent both as a child, and spouse, experiencing multiple moves throughout the United States and abroad. She holds a Master of Science Degree in Education from Old Dominion University and taught in the Hampton Roads area for a number of years. She currently resides in Virginia Beach with her husband and twins.