Okay so many of you know that there has been some issues we have been having with Abby's school. We are getting a lot of calls and texts asking what is going on, and well, it is a pretty long story so I am just going to explain it on here so you all can know.
First off, we just want to say that Abby is doing great in school, just as expected. We registered her over the summer to start school in August at Dakota Elementary School located here on Minot AFB. Dakota is not a military school, but it is on base. The staff is for the most part, all civilian. We loved that her school is only a quarter mile from our house and we could walk her to and from school when the weather was nice. The day she was registered we asked the front office about Abby missing school for the possibility of our upcoming vacation to come home for a month for the Holidays. At this point it was not for sure we were coming home, and the outcome was going to be based on what her school said. They said, yes that is fine, just be sure to get her homework. A couple of days before school started, we met with Abby's teacher, and at that time we also asked her about being gone for a month. Again, she said, no problem, let me know a few days before and I will get you all her work so she can keep up. So after we had now talked to a few people and were told it was okay, we decided that we should for sure take the opportunity to take a month long vacation, as we have never done it before. We figured this probably was our last chance before both of the kids are in school and they could fall behind. Everyone who knows Abby knows how smart she is and the possibility of her falling behind is pretty much impossible.
Everything is fine for a couple of months and she is loving school and her teacher. I get the form sent home about the bus. The bus here is pretty much mandatory. It is provided by the base, from a contracted company the base pays for. This is due to the weather here in Minot, and the purpose is to minimize the kids exposure to severe weather. So I fill out the form with our address and where she will need to be picked up. The bus is required to pick up any kids along the route, within 3 houses of home. The schedule is released a few days later, and we notice we are not on it. Our street is not even on the route. We start making some phone calls to the guy in charge of the contract for the bus, the bus company, the school principal, and the superintendent of the school district. At this point we find out Abby has been at the wrong school. We have 2 elementary schools on base. The other is North Plains Elementary and it is about 1 mile away. We were told we go to Dakota due to our address. When we have our first encounter with her principal, she basically didn't give a care. She said we were at the wrong school and her staff probably told us this at registration and we chose to ignore it. When she was registered we had to fill out forms and such with our address. We were never told we were at the wrong school. If we were told that, we would have simply gone to North Plains and registered her there, but it really made sense to us that our address put her at Dakota because it was half the distance. During research we found out that our address in fact used to be in Dakota zone. Our address used to be a 4-plex house, and it was farther down the road. So when we looked it up, it said our address was still there, and not where we are now. The bus company and everyone seemed very understanding, but there was nothing they could do (except the principal...that woman did absolutly nothing to even attempt to help us figure things out). Needless to say, we came out with our own solution: There is a bus stop for Dakota on the street right behind us (the houses back up to eachother so its really not all that far) so I walk Abby through the backyard, and then we walk to the side walk. Its about 2-3 houses worth, it takes us less than 1 minute from door to sidewalk.
The issue was resolved, on our own, and we were okay with it. That is until the first day of the bus runs, which was on Monday. The bus is to arrive at 8:31. We get to the bus stop at 8:25, just in case since its the 2nd stop we knew it shouldn't be running behind already. We are waiting and waiting. Finally at 8:38 the bus starts coming from the opposite direction and then turns down a road before it gets to our stop, never even stopping at all. I knew it was our bus by the # on it. I grab Abby and run back inside to get Jordyn ready because now I have to drive Abby to school. I inform Geoff of what happened so he could figure out what went on. (Stacy does not do phone calls like this because Stacy is not good at them and can not compose herself when she is flustered. Geoff takes care of all phone calls with this nature). After everything that had already happened, we were pretty upset that this happened. We found out that our bus driver was given the wrong map for pick ups and completely went the wrong way. The supervisor apologized to Geoff many times and promised Abby would be on the bus and dropped off at the correct drop off point, as well as pick her up Tuesday morning in the correct spot. Again, we let it go, its done, nothing we can do. The bus dropped her off Monday and picked her up Tuesday morning and since then everything with the bus has been fine.
Now, back to the whole vacation thing. Geoff went in on Monday to talk to the principal about how they need to communicate with the staff better and get it together, because this whole wrong school situation should have never happened. We suggested that starting next year, anytime someone enrolls there child they need to look at their house on a map, and sign something that they acknowledge they are not in the right zone and the bus will not be picking up their child. This would eliminate any sort of confusion before school ever starts. The principal pretty much said yeah whatever. For some reason, Geoff had mentioned about us leaving and the principal asked for how long and when he told her a month, she said "no, that is too much for her to miss". At this point he explained to her we were told its okay as long as she got her school work and kept up. She said "no, my staff would never say that, we have rules about missing too many days". He explained how we planned this vacation BECAUSE we were told it was okay. She flat out just kept saying no, no, no. Geoff felt very bullied and pushed around by her, and her not willing to even listen to our situation. He then called the superintendent of the school district and a few other people. Nobody knew of any rule of "10 days" or anything like that, and they all said, it should be fine, we will call the principal and see what is going on.
The next day, we were waiting to hear back from everyone and I guess in the meantime people finally found the rule/state law about attendence. Basically the laws were made for the highschoolers, but the whole district follows them and can use them any way they want. We were told "10 day rule of thumb". Um last I heard a rule of thumb is a guideline, not the law. After many hours of research we found that there is nowhere that states they can only miss 10 days, but they are to attend school unless medically unable to. That leaves it very open for each school to say whatever they want reguarding how much school a child is allowed to miss, before the authorities are called and charges are pressed against the parents. Basically we were threatened by the principal saying that if Abby missed 10 days, she was going to call the Authorities (the authorties assumed to be the police and CPS, based on our understanding). We attempted to talk to the other school on base, and at first that principal was very understanding and totally okay with her missing because we are on a military base and he knows we all need to be flexible when it comes to the military. We were ready to switch her over at this point. Apparently right after we left, the superintendent of the school district, called every single school principal to inform them of the "rules". The next time I talked to the North Plains principal, he was a completely different person, and took back every single thing he said. Now, we totally understand that rules need to be followed, but by this point, we have completely had it with people changing rules and telling us different things every hour. They all basically pointed fingers and said we were bad parents for allowing her to miss that much school. They said "Who is this really hurting?" referring to Abby. We said "well, not Abby, she hasn't really learned anything new that she hasn't learned at home, and she will being having many new experiences with our family on our trip". The just snubbed the comment. They feel classroom time is more important than the act of actually learning anything. Abby has plenty of social interaction outside of school, so we are not concerned with that. We know many families that homeschool...Abby does AWANA. We do MOPS. We do sports. We do playgroups.
So after all this, this is what we feel:
*We have no problem with public schools, however we do believe there needs to be more communication within the staff to make sure everyone is on the same page, which right now, they are not.
*We feel that principal at Dakota, is a heartless woman who does not care about the needs of children. She flat out told us that they treat every child the same, and no exceptions will be made for anyone. (We have many friends here on base we have spoken with that this woman made exceptions for vacations when in Kindergarten, so they would keep there child enrolled and not lose state money)
*If there were set rules on the amount of days they could miss, somewhere that it is written...we would apologize to the principal, and superintendent for causing trouble. But, it does not exist. We caught them not knowing there own policy, and we challenged them because they do not know what everyone is doing, and basically they are mad about this, and have gone into defense mode.
*We strongly agree that yes, children need to be in school, but vacation and missing school should be determined by the child's teacher, and if they believe they are able to not fall behind, it should be allowed.
*These schools are on a military base. The children that attend, are military dependents. Not everyone is allowed to take leave on the exact school dates that children are given off. They are in school up until dec 22nd. There is no way most people would be able to make it home for Christmas if they plan on spending it with family. We really believe that when military children are involved with schools, that the school needs to be more flexible to the needs of the military family and maybe show a little bit more support. Our family is sacrificing a normal life, living in our home town, and spending quality time with our families, to serve our country. You would think the least the school system could do, is make it a little easier for us to go home for the Holidays and be with family, that we only see once a year.
*It was NEVER our intent to cause such an uproar. We simply were trying to do what were told was okay, and then trying to find answers. We are very upset that the act of us taking our children to spend time with family for the HOLYdays has caused such anger, threats, and chaos in the school district. The whole thing got out of hand very quickly, all because the district did not know or even have a specific policy, and were caught off guard. We do however, have a hard time believing that we are the only family to ever go on vacation at Christmas with school aged children....
Basically our decision was prayed about and discussed with many family and friends who are involved in our lives, and know and care about our family. We have decided to remove Abby from the school this year. Since it is not required for children to attend school in the state of ND until age 7, they can not stop us from doing this. She will not be allowed to go back in until next year for 1st grade, and she will go to North Plains, where at least the principal is a little more reasonable and willing to talk with parents and resolve issues. I have unofficially home schooled Abby since age 2, which I will continue to do. There is also still discussion if we will just completely remove both of our children and not use the public school system for the duration of our stay in North Dakota. This means WE will be home schooling (it is a 2 parent job, and Geoff will be very involved). We do not feel we should allow the school system to threaten us and bully us into not going on a vacation we were told was okay, and then threaten to take our children.
We do want to thank all of our family and friends that have been praying for us, and supporting us through this whole ordeal. This was not an easy decision for us, and we do not like that we were basically forced into it, but it is what is happening, and we will take it as it comes. Also thank you to everyone who cared enough to read this whole blog entry LOL.