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As Delta variant becomes more prevalent, central Iowa parent enrolls daughter in Home School Assistance Program

One parent has enrolled her child in the Home School Assistance Program for the upcoming school year, because of rising coronavirus cases and her flexible job.

ALTOONA, Iowa — A combination of rising COVID-19 rates and Iowa banning mask mandates were deciding factors that led two metro parents to switch their daughter into a Home School Assistance Learning Program. 

In HSAP, students are home-schooled but involved in the district in some capacity. 

This could include home-school students who are enrolled in school courses, participating in district activities, when parents receive in-home assistance through the district or if the district provides an assessment of student performance.

"We decided to transition over to home schooling because we just didn't think the risk was worth it to send her back to school," Laura Castelline, the mother of seven-year-old Lucy Castelline, said.

Castelline said she's typically not someone who worries, but with more Delta variant cases she became concerned, and because her job is flexible, she thought it was the right time to take the leap into home schooling.  

According to the Iowa Department of Education, the amount of people enrolling children in HSAP statewide has been increasing for the past few years. 

These are the rates starting from the 2016-17 school year: 

  • 2016-17: 6,993
  • 2017-18: 7,035
  • 2018-19: 7,111
  • 2019-20: 7,188
  • 2020-21: 8,831

From 2019-2020 to the 2020-2021 school year, the HSAP program increased by 23%, and there is a possibility these rates could grow for the upcoming school year. 

Heather Doe, the communications director for the Iowa Department of Education, said those numbers do not include all home-schooled students across the states. 

The department cannot gather data from other home-schooled students who are not involved with the district in any capacity.

Local 5 reached out to some school districts in Central Iowa to find out their HSAP rates and heard back from three:

  • The West Des Moines Community School District had a 5.3% increase in enrollment heading into the new school year. 
  • The Urbandale Community School District only had two students sign up for HSAP for the upcoming school year. Dena Claire, the communications manager for the school district, said they are currently in discussions with five families (eight students) who are considering home schooling. 
    • Urbandale CSD had 70 students in the program last school year.
  • The Ames Community School District had 235 students in the program on Oct. 1, 2019, 266 in the program on Oct. 1, 2020 and 227 in the program on July 30, 2021.

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Castelline is excited to take on the task of being her daughter's teacher in a few weeks.

"I don't feel like I can be everything for my kids, but I do feel like I'd do a decent job on this," she said. 

The program is not offered in every school district, but if it is and someone wants to sign their children up for it, enrollment dates vary. 

In Ames, the deadline is Sept. 1. The Urbandale Community School District requires students to be signed up two weeks before the start of school, which is Aug. 24 this year.

Johnston allows enrollment anytime, based on the need. 

The West Des Moines Community School District said if the child is a resident of the city, they can enroll anytime.

WATCH: Polk County officials urge indoor mask-wearing as community COVID transmission levels reach "high"

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