Greenfield School Committee home school policy revised to allow extracurricular participation

By MARY BYRNE

 Staff Writer

Published: 03-09-2023 7:05 PM

GREENFIELD – Parents, coaches, teammates and members of the community went to bat Wednesday night for homeschool students who – since a policy change last year – haven’t technically been eligible to participate in extracurricular activities at Greenfield schools, including athletics. 

“I’m only here because I feel it’s very important that kids are allowed to participate in whatever the extracurricular activity is they want to,” said former Greenfield Athletic Director and current varsity baseball coach Tom Suchanek, who has advocated at several meetings for the School Committee to change the homeschool policy. “Down the road is really where kids that are involved in all these programs really benefit and grow. I could call kids up here for the last X number of years, and they would tell you how these programs have impacted their lives.” 

Suchanek was referencing the district’s homeschool policy – voted into place last March – which did not include language about home school students participating in school day activities or extracurricular activities. Following several comments at Wednesday night’s meeting, however, the School Committee voted unanimously to revise the policy to once again make homeschool students eligible to participate in extra curricular activities. 

The decision followed an hour of public comment, during which residents spoke in favor of a School Committee vote to change the policy.

“I can’t imagine why we could consider excluding any kids from Greenfield sports at this time,” said Tara Cloutier, a Spanish teacher at Greenfield High School. “Sports have done so much for my children, my family. We can’t field teams; we’re co-oping all the communities. We don’t have the right to judge how people are learning, but I know they can learn from sports.”

Among those to speak Wednesday night was junior Michael Pierce, a Greenfield resident and homeschool student. 

“I’ve been playing baseball my whole life, and I only have two more years left of high school baseball,” he said. “I already had one year taken away from me because of COVID. That would be three years of not playing baseball for COVID.”

Others lined up to speak on Pierce’s behalf, with some also speaking up for other homeschool students in similar situations to Pierce.  

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“Just because they’re home schooled and don’t go to Greenfield High School does not mean they don’t have an impact on us,” said sophomore Jackson Campbell.

School Committee Chair Amy Proietti explained on Wednesday that the homeschool policy was among several to go through changes during a policy overhaul last March. This policy, in particular, was looked at out of concern for students who are not enrolled in the district “coming in and out” of the schools. During that time, language for athletics or other extracurriculars was removed from the policy. 

Due to a miscommunication between administrators and the athletic department, however, homeschool students were still able to sign up for athletics. In September 2022, the error was realized and the Policy & Program Subcommittee voted to approve a waiver that would allow those students to participate in the remainder of the fall season.

“Since we’ve made this change permanently, it appears in March 2022, we’ve heard consistently … that the homeschool piece for athletics specifically doesn’t work for our community,” said Proietti. “That is the reason for bringing forward the change tonight.”

Committee member Glenn Johnson-Mussad said he appreciated the community’s feedback on the policy, especially with respect to how valuable of a contribution homeschool students have on Greenfield’s teams. Committee member Jean Wall also spoke in support of a revised policy. 

“I think it’s ridiculous you had to go through that to be part of the sports teams in Greenfield,” she said, “when we have so few people in Greenfield participating.”

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