With an earlier rule change of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, sports eligibility and extracurricular activities through public schools will be a reality for nontraditional students when classes resume in August.
Those nontraditional students include those who are home-schooled and students attending virtual schools, and will eventually include charter school students as well.
The AHSAA changed its bylaws in April, but the Envision Virtual Academy — the Mobile County Public School System’s first online, public high school — is making a push during enrollment to let parents know their students will now be able to tackle their coursework online without forgoing extracurricular activities.
Envision is entering its third year of operation for MCPSS students in grades 9-12, but counselor Sheniqua Roberson said extracurricular opportunities have been missing from the online school since it launched.
“A lot of the parents we see want the home school experience, but they want their students to have access to those extracurricular activities as well,” Roberson told Lagniappe. “It’s not just sports. That goes for all activities. I have two students that will attend their zoned schools just so they can be in the JROTC program.”
MCPSS also offers technical training through Bryant Career Technical School in a partnership with Faulkner University and, according to Roberson, that program will now be an option for her students as well.
The change in the regulations stemmed from a legislative effort in 2015 to pass the “Tim Tebow Act,” named after the former University of Florida quarterback. While the AHSAA initially opposed the idea, it opted to develop its own policy to prevent a likely legislative mandate.
Other than not attending a brick-and-mortar institution, virtual-school athletes would be treated the same by the AHSAA. Rules governing eligibility and transfers would apply the same way, and any home-schooled, virtual or charter students who play a sport will also count toward the AHSAA classification at their respective school.
Roberson said the process through Envision would be similar, but students will have to provide their own transportation to those courses. The school would help facilitate paperwork and monitor each student’s AHSAA eligibility based on their academic performance.
“This has really been a pressing need for the last two years,” Roberson said. “We’re glad it passed so [our students] will be able to participate to get the socialization and opportunities that come with these activities.”
The Envision Academy will be accepting applications for the 2016-2017 school year over next two months. To apply, visit envisionvirtualacademy.com.