Thursday, September 12, 2013
When Kim Fralick was in high school, she contracted mononucleosis and had to remain home for three or four weeks until she recovered.
“There was nobody who came to me to help me,” she said. “I had to drop some classes and lost a lot of ground.”
That experience contributed to Fralick’s decision in 1997 to head the Aiken County School District’s homebound instruction program – a position Fralick has held ever since.
The population of homebound students is about 830 – about three percent of the more than 24,000 students in the District. That more than doubles the 400 students in the program 16 years ago.
The current enrollment, Fralick said, includes students recovering from injuries or short-term illnesses, those with more chronic or serious conditions, children who are medically-bound or have emotional issues, and girls who are pregnant and remain home through a doctor’s medical decision.
“When I started,” Fralick said, “they hired me to actually create a new program. Nobody was coordinating anything at the time, and the District wanted more control over the program. They selected me and another woman, and we set up new policies.”
Almost immediately, they began working with physicians more to help get kids back in school as quickly as possible through treatment plans. If the students couldn’t handle a full day, they would return for, say, two periods.
Fralick has coordinated seven full-time homebound teachers and more retirees and regular classroom teachers than she can count in part-time roles. At the behest of the District administration, the county’s Board of Education agreed to add an eighth full-time instructor to meet the students’ needs.
The state only provides funding for one hour of instruction for a student per day in most instances. The School District does offer funding for additional time with the children and teenagers as needed
For students who are struggling with math, for example, the state now offers extra hours that Fralick can assign. Not every teacher knows all subjects, and specialty teachers are essential for math and science. Special needs instructors work with preschool children who are medically homebound.
A former math teacher, Fralick herself may go out for group instruction at South Aiken High School. The students may not be ready to attend classes full-time, but can benefit from such in-school groups. That arrangement helps teachers, too.
Those with large classroom numbers cannot deal with issues such as emotional handicaps or ongoing medical needs, Fralick said. In addition, some short-time homebound students may have the option of a few available online courses.
She signs all the documents that approve students for homebound services. If anything seems amiss about a student’s needs for those services, a physician will be contacted to determine the appropriate action.
Overall, the homebound program has helped thousands of students over the years, Fralick said – keeping kids on grade level or from actually dropping out of school.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.