I mean, everyone's doing it, right? Note the commas in that first sentence. I did NOT say "everyone's doing it right," because many of them aren't doing it right at all. Sure, there are a lot of people across the country right now starting and running these unique drop off programs but that doesn't mean they're doing it correctly. Blunt? Yes. True? Also yes.
Hybrid programs are generally a cross between homeschool and private school. Many hybrid leaders see a need, have a vision, and dive in with little thought to the potential of being heavily regulated by state and local governments. Because these programs are relatively new in the world of education and due to their unique nature, it can be very difficult to find what state regulations apply to them (if any?!). It's common to get the run-around with various state departments that don't know what to do with you.
I am a hybrid program founder and director, so I'm the last person to say you shouldn't go for it, but I also want leaders to know what they may be in for when they decide to start a hybrid program. I'm a big believer in making educated decisions. Hopefully this post will give you some good points to consider before you jump in with both feet!
The information below is not legal advice. Consult an attorney when considering these important decisions. Also, don't mind the crazy lady in the picture...she doesn't have anything to do with running a hybrid program.
1) WHAT DOES YOUR STATE SAY ABOUT IT?
Will you be a homeschool program?
Does your state require homeschool students to be instructed by a parent?? If you live in a state where this is the case, you may not be able to run a homeschool partnership...especially one that has students more than the parents do each week.
If you are a homeschool program, do things that make you look like a homeschool program. DON'T use the word "school" in your name or on your website! If you're not a school, don't use that word! :)
Parents should register as homeschoolers (or whatever your state requires of homeschoolers) and should be responsible for their child(ren)'s education(s). You should be very upfront with parents and on your website/marketing material about the homeschool partnership and stress the parent responsibility aspect of the program.
Seriously consider how many days a week you offer classes. If you offer classes 4+ days a week, it will be harder to convince people that you're a homeschool program! Consider 1-2 days a week max.
What else is required of homeschool parents? Would your group structure's prohibit parents from complying with state homeschool law? Visit HSLDA and this helpful link for more about what's required from homeschoolers in each state.
Will you be a private school? How does your state define a private school?
Most hybrid leaders are motivated by the freedom of homeschooling and operating as a private school is not as common, but it's a possibility and, depending on your state, may be your only possibility (like Kansas). If you have students on campus 4 or 5 days a week, it may be difficult to convince government agencies (and others) that you're a homeschool program.
Every state has a legal definition of a private school--usually involving requirements about compulsory attendance, teacher qualifications, required subjects, and health/safety regulation. Depending on your state, private school regulation may be limited and may not be as elusive as you may think.
If you operate as a private school but don't have students on campus 5 days a week, how do you meet compulsory attendance requirements? Consider having parents submit attendance on the home days and having teachers grade work/keep records from all student work including things done on home days.
Will you be a satellite or umbrella school? Some states require homeschoolers to homeschool under the supervision of a satellite or umbrella school. If you plan to provide this service, you'll need to learn what is required of you in order to do this.
2) WOULD YOU BE SUBJECT TO DAYCARE LAWS?
Daycare laws? But I'm not running a daycare! Er.... your state might say otherwise.
You are caring for children who are dropped off with you multiple days a week... sounds a lot like daycare, doesn't it? Every state has different regulations and exemptions. It's important to learn and consider these as you choose the schedule of your program.
I spoke with a homeschool leader in Kansas today. After a little digging, we found that ANY program/business/group that has more than 13 students more than 5 hours a day or more than one day a week is instantly considered a Child Care Center and is subject to daycare licensing. In this case, I would advise that this leader's program operate one day a week for less than 5 hours (or that they pursue daycare licensing).
The program that I run is in Oregon. In the state of Oregon, a program is exempt from daycare laws if it operates less than 70 days a year. So, we have students on campus 2 days a week or 33 weeks a year--66 days a year total. Boom, no daycare license required.
What does your state require? A google search for " __(state name)__ daycare license exemption" often leads to helpful information.
3) FACE IT, YOU'RE A BUSINESS.
A hybrid leader recently told me (with good intentions), "We don't consider ourselves a business. We see what we do as a ministry...a group of people working together to bless, encourage, and support each other in their homeschool journeys." I love this...I get it and have been there! You may not see what you do as a business, but in most cases, the IRS will beg to differ. :/ If you want to run a small, unincorporated co-op with no drop off, little-to-no money changing hands, operated by all volunteers...this mentality might be more appropriate. But, if you pay staff, offer drop off, and take money... You're a business and there's a lot that goes into running a business! My mentor, Carol Topp of the HomeschoolCPA, says, "You can be simple or you can be legal." I don't mean to discourage you--it's very possible to run a hybrid business well and successfully...but it's not simple. :) Your program fees should be structured in a way to hopefully pay a bookkeeper and a part-time administrator to allow for this to be done correctly. I won't go into exactly HOW to start a hybrid program/business here, but keep an eye out for my Hybrid Leader Guide coming soon!
(Hint: starting a hybrid program business involves building a leadership team, incorporating, opening a bank account, learning and complying with state employer laws, pursing 501(c)(3) status if you so choose, etc...)
Hybrid programs are unique and meet a growing and special need for families across our country! I am your biggest fan and want to help, encourage, and support you in running your program successfully and with integrity. If you have specific questions, I hope you'll reach out for a consultation. Keep up the good work, Homeschool Leader!