Mountain Laurel Academy
Educational Services
Family Handbook

Welcome to Mountain Laurel Academy

Mountain Laurel Academy is a non-profit, non-traditional learning center dedicated to serving the local community. Each child registers with the State as a homeschooled student. In this “university” design students study at the center 60% of their academic week, with the remaining 40% spent in independent study. MLA provides, and is accountable for, all the student’s academic needs. This includes all curriculum instruction, work assignments, grading, assessment, and record keeping. There is a strong focus on student accountability, motivation, and independence. Mountain Laurel believes that this approach will truly prepare students for the rigors of college study. 

Our Christian faith compels us to offer our gifts, love, and services to all who may be in need. We believe strongly in the Christian values of caring, acceptance, and family and welcome students of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. Our only requirement is that students are motivated and eager to learn and that families will support them in this hybrid learning environment. 

In this small-school setting, we truly believe that all who attend and work here are “family”. We operate on this basis, and our expectation is that everyone treat each other with respect, compassion and understanding. In this way we hope to teach, learn, and grow in a nurturing, caring environment where all feel welcomed, safe, and among friends.

Mission Statement

Mountain Laurel Academy’s mission is to provide our surrounding communities with an alternative to traditional educational options.We strive to offer an academically challenging curriculum to students who are educationally focused but who are not being well served in a larger-school environment and who need an option to traditional home schooling. This is achieved in a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment with an emphasis on critical thinking, independent study and accountability.  

Mountain Laurel Motto

Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom

Board of Directors

Jeff Hites, Chairman & Co-Founder
Danielle Barnes, Vice-Chairwoman
Meg Norris, Secretary-Treasurer & Co-Founder
Hollis Lathem, Community Board Member
Daniel Blackman, Community Board Member
Geoff Chalk, Community Outreach

The Board has ultimate authority over the administration of Mountain Laurel Academy. They delegate executive and administrative control of day-to-day operations to the Center directors. 

Except for scheduled breaks, the Center is open five day a week from September 3 till May 22.

Calendar

Sept. 3, 2019 First Day of School                                       
Nov. 25-29, 2019 Thanksgiving Break
Dec. 20, 2019-Jan. 6, 2020 Holiday Break
Jan. 10, 2020 Last Day of First Semester
Jan. 13, 2020 First Day of Second Semester
April 6-10, 2020 Spring Break
May 16, 2020 Graduation
May 22, 2020 Last Day of School

Policies & Procedures

Admissions

The admission process includes a visit to the Center and an interview with the student, parents, and faculty to discuss the unique learning process and student, and family, responsibilities. This also includes discussing curriculum options, student needs, family and Center expectations and to assess grade, and class, placement. Specific class selections, schedule, and curriculum choices are determined on an individual basis according to student’s educational background, prior testing, graduation requirements/needs, student interests, and input from student, family, and faculty. Final determination is based on the best interests of the student as agreed upon by the family. 

 Admission is finalized upon presentation and completion of all necessary admission documents:

MLA Registration Form
Copy of completed “Declaration of Intent to Homeschool” (DOI)
Copy of the student’s transcripts from prior school
Health & Medical Forms
Emergency Release Form
Transportation/Student Driver & Rider Form
Photo & Technology Release Form
Behavioral Expectations Form
Volunteer Form 

Attendance

 Students are required to attend the Center during the scheduled hours for their grade level (16.5 hours per week minimum State requirement 180 day). MLA requires 22.5 hours HS/ 20.5 MS based on a 170 day year.

Students will sign in, and out, each day they attend. 

Excused absences*: Absences are excused for any reasonable cause, or with prior approval. A phone call notification and follow-up note are required.

Unexcused absences*: Any missing work must be turned in upon returning to school. (Assignments can be located on the online calendars). Additional work will be assigned to replace missed classroom instruction. This work must be completed for student to receive credit for missed instructional hours. After three (3) unexcused absences, a meeting with the student and parents is requested to avoid missing additional time. Unexcused absences may require academic make-up days. More than eight                           (8) absences of any type, student is subject to academic make-up days.

Make-up work: Students are expected to meet with teachers to make up any missed work. The work must be made up within a reasonable time frame, as scheduled.   

Tardiness: Students are expected to arrive at the Center in time for the beginning of their classes. Excessive tardiness is addressed as unexcused absences.  

Unscheduled Closures (Weather): Students utilize the school website to receive assignments.

*Attendance records are kept as part of the “ThinkWave” grading and records program.

*Additional requirements may apply to students receiving scholarships.

 Communication:

 MLA requests that families communicate promptly with the staff if:
·      The student is absent
·      The student will be missing time, when it is known in advance
·      There is an issue which may affect the student’s ability to function normally at home or at MLA
·      There is any concern which the staff should address

 MLA communicates with the families promptly if:
·      There is any health or safety concern about any student
·      There is a change of schedule which requires a change in dismissal times
·      Weather becomes a concern, requiring early dismissal (Families are notified by text and email and “Remind”)
·      There is any information which needs to be disseminated to the families concerning field trips, schedules, curriculum, or special events
·      We need to work with parents to help them comply with any GA DOE requirements.

MLA updates parents with a weekly, emailed newsletters to keep them informed of academics, important dates, reminders, and any other necessary information. 

 NOTE: Parents are always welcome to visit the Center at any time. Teachers are also available before, between, or after classes to speak with parents or appointments can be made for a more convenient time.

You may observe any class your child is in, visit with your child, or take them out for lunch any day.

Conduct & Discipline

 Students and parents sign a conduct expectation form prior to admission. Students are expected to abide by all reasonable norms of behavior. Failure to do so is addressed, first, with the student, and, secondly, with the parent. Repeat offences result in disciplinary measures. Discipline for any uncorrected, disruptive behavior results in suspension or expulsion from the Center. All cases are handled on a case-by-case basis with any and all mitigating circumstances taken into account. MLA reserves the right to remove any student whose behavior is disruptive or detrimental to the learning environment, or safety and welfare of the students.

Curriculum

By using only certified teachers for core classes we have the ability to develop curriculum that is individualized for each student. MLA is dedicated to a challenging college – prep curriculum and students are encouraged to move ahead as quickly as they can master concepts and content. There is no single boxed curriculum we rely on. Every child learns differently and at different rates. We work with the students to identify their learning styles so that the teachers, and the students themselves, are better able to optimize their academically directed time.

Mountain Laurel Academy administers the curriculum, assesses progress, scores and records content tests, and maintains transcripts for each student. This includes course content, texts used, hours, and course grade. Parents and other stakeholders are welcome to review all texts, media, and lectures used at MLA at any time. 

NOTE: The independent study time, inherent in our school design, requires a good deal of maturity and self-discipline from our students. We help them in adjusting to this “learning behavior” through regular classroom discussion, individual follow-up, helpful tips and ideas, directed lessons, and mentoring guidance. We feel strongly that this single focus on disciplined self-learning is the most important component in producing successful high school graduates, and in preparing them for success in college and beyond.

 NOTE: State law requires students to spend each “Independent Days” in self-directed study (5.0 hrs for middle school & 5.5 hrs for high school).  MLA requires more time for directed study, and, if, at any time, the staff feels that a student is not meeting this requirement, they are must attend study sessions at MLA, necessitating additional fees.  

 Textbooks: Families purchase required textbooks. No “Common Core” texts are used and all efforts are made to use older editions to minimize cost. It is recommended that, whenever possible, a second set of text books is purchased. This prevents students from having to carry all their books every day and prevent them from missing books needed for independent study days. 

Grading Scale:                   
90 – 100                     A
80 – 90                       B
70 – 80                       C
Below 70                   F

 Work Due: Work is due as assigned by the teacher. It is late if not turned in on the due date for any reason, one additional day’s grace for 90%, and after, a zero “0” is recorded.

 Grade Tracking: Grades are tracked using the “ThinkWave” program. Students and parents are given full internet access to the program to view grades in real time.

 Failing Grades: At any time a student’s cumulative average falls below a “70”, parents are notified and action taken to recover the grade. In all instances, parents are made aware of any student who has grades trending downward, long before they reach this point.

Mitigation for failing grades or missing work:
When a student’s grade drops below a 70%, or they are missing work, they are required to attend school on their “Independent Days” until such time that work is completed and the grade surpasses 70%.  MS students pay $25/day for on on-site adult tutor to supervise and help them with their work.

Advanced Placement (AP):
Selected AP course offerings are determined each year based on student needs and previous offerings.

Honors Courses:
Whenever possible, courses are offered as Honors with non-Honors options for those who choose the alternative.

Finals:
Final Exams are administered at the end of each semester. These exams account for 10% of the semester grade.

Electives:
Spanish or Latin and Art are offered for all grade levels. There is also Leadership, and “Life 101” electives earned throughout the year. Additional Electives, including Health, PE, and Technology, music, aviation and others are offered based on individual student needs and graduation requirements.

Online Classes:
Some courses may be offered online as schedules dictate. In these cases, there is always teacher support provided.

Internships:
Offered on an individual basis according to interest and need. These are arranged by MLA to be attended on independent study days. Credit is given when additional class requirements are met.

Testing:
National Standardized testing (ITBS) is administered every year for all students.Note: No other “standardized testing” will be administered. Students in grades 5 through 10 take the ITBS each year so parents and staff are up-to-date on progress. Students in grades 11 and 12 participate in the SAT/ACT testing in preparation for college applications and admissions.

Tutoring:
Additional tutoring may be arranged with an approved outside tutor, and may take place at MLA as approved by the staff. Students are given numerous opportunities to receive free tutoring from the teachers during study halls, or scheduled tutoring time, as well as after school if prearranged.

Graduation Requirements: (MLA complies with all GA DOE requirements)

                     English 4 units
                        Mathematics 4 units
                        Science 4 units
                        Social Studies 3 units (4 pref.)
                        Foreign Language 3 units (4 pref.)
                       Physical Education 1 (incl. Health) unit **may be satisfied through sport participation
                        Fine Arts 1 unit
                        Other Electives 1 (incl. Technology) units
                        Total Units Required *Total Carnegie Units required for graduation: 23

Records & Transcripts:
Copies are kept on file by MLA (with duplicate copies held off-site) and copies given to all parents, who will be given possession of the official records. These include attendance, transcripts, SAT/ACT reports and standardized testing reports. All records are held for a minimum of 7 years.

Electronic Devices and Technology

 Laptops, iPads, & Tablets are all permitted, encouraged, and often required in all classes. Appropriate use is expected.  (Please read the Technology Agreement). Students have access to school computers for research and to write papers. Any other research material is available in the library or from a teacher. During lectures, handwritten notes are required. MLA is a “phone free zone” and phones are locked in “Yondr” sleeves, which remain with the students. 

Extracurricular Activities, Field Trips, Leaving Campus

Fridays often involve leaving campus for field trips and other activities. Students ride with adult drivers, although exceptions may be made for HS drivers to drive themselves and family members when parental approval has been given. All students must have a release form on file to attend these events. Additionally, students of driving age must have a parental form on file allowing them to leave campus for lunch, drive any other student, and delineating any parental rules or restrictions. For all non-driving students, a form must be signed by a parent to allow them to ride anywhere, from campus, with another student. Only HS students may opt to leave campus for lunch.

Activities fees are charged monthly for the cost to attend various activities and to cover the cost of group lunches eaten off campus. 

Fund Raising

As a non-profit entity, MLA conducts fundraising activities for the following:
·      Cover operating expenses
·      Build a reserve fund for emergencies
·      Develop a Scholarship Fund 
·      To keep tuition costs as low as permissible

Fundraising may occasionally include the participation of students and/or families, but participation is never mandatory. However, we strongly encourage active participation by all of our MLA families so that we can continue to deliver quality educational services at a reasonable, affordable price to everyone. 

Families receiving scholarship/tuition assistance are expected to participate in fundraising activities.

Medical & Medicines

All students must have an updated medical, and medical emergency, form on file. MLA does not have a nurse on-site, but we dispense any medication necessary with strict parental/physician approval. Medicines must be kept on-site, in their original containers, along with necessary forms. It is also the parent’s responsibility to notify MLA of any health issues, allergies, or needed medicines and promptly update us of any changes.

Mentoring

 We have several adult Mentors associated with the Center. A Mentor may be assigned to a student, and will meet with their mentee on a regular basis to help, and assist the student with any issues, concerns, or to just be a friendly voice and guiding hand. While the teachers act in this capacity on a daily basis, these Mentors are able to address things outside of the teacher’s purview.  They meet with students as schedules allow, although Friday mornings are often reserved for Mentors to come in and meet and talk with students. Parents have full access to their child’s mentor at all times.

Re-enrollment

 Student re-enrollment forms are mailed to currently enrolled families, or may be picked up at MLA by new families, by March 1stof each school year. The form outlines the procedures and timeline for enrolling your student for the following Fall Semester. These forms guarantee a spot for your student and lock in announced tuition rates. They also present any and all existing fees, charges, and discounts as well as delineate the commitment being made by the Center, and by the family.

Safety

 The MLA facility meets all existing Fire Marshall, and local requirements, and emergency procedures are in place for fire, storm, or intruder situations. (See Appendix B) 

Scholarships and Tuition Assistance: (See Appendix A)

A scholarship fund has been established to assist families with financial aid based on their financial need and other factors.  Assistance is available as determined by our scholarship fund reserve. This will require an application and some financial information to initiate the process. Final determination is made at the discretion of the Board of Directors. Please direct any questions about this program to the MLA staff. For additional information about this program, see Appendix A.

Students receiving scholarship assistance will be required to meet certain attendance and achievement minimums. Failure to meet these minimum requirements may result in revocation of the scholarship. Prior to any revocation, the parents will be notified, and the student given ample opportunity to remedy any deficits. 

 Scholarship requirements:

           1. Required attendance: Scholarship students are required to attend classes. Three or more  unexcused absences will result in a meeting with student and parents for a reevaluation of the student’s eligibility to continue to receive scholarship  assistance. The same rules will apply to a total of 8 or more absences, whether excused or unexcused. 

          2. Required minimum academic standing: Student must maintain a “B” average (80%+) in all courses. Parents are notified if grades dip below this mark so that corrective action can be taken. Grades which drop below 70% will subject the student to a reevaluation of his, or her, scholarship eligibility.                              

           3. Independent Work: Students are required to spend a minimum number of hours on their “Independent Work Days” completing assigned work (5.5 hrs for MS, and 5.5 hrs. for HS). Any activities, jobs, or other recurring situations which prevent the student from completing these requirements, may lead MLA to reevaluate the student’s eligibility. 

Social Opportunities Outside of MLA

There are numerous activities held off campus for students to interact with other youth in the area, and to help in community programs, and receive service hours for college. These include, but are not limited to, local Oktoberfest’s, “Trunk or Treats”, Church Youth activities, fundraising events, GA Adopt-a-Stream, various community service opportunities, and involvement with local middle and high school events.

Transparency and Accountability

 MLA operates as a 501(c)(3), non-profit entity. We are guided by a Board of Directors consisting of Teachers, Parents, Community, and Church members. Our finances are handled by a CPA and a Bookkeeping firm and we are fully insured. Our By-Laws, financial statements, and insurance coverages are all available upon request. In all ways, we strive to operate in an open and transparent manner for the comfort and security of our families.

Tuition and Other Costs

 Tuition may vary depending on which services are chosen. Please inquire as to specific a fee schedule for your needs. (Note: New tax laws, as of 1/1/2018, may allow for a 529 deduction of tuition payments.) 

 $6600/yr. (paid monthly over 10 or 12 months) for a full academic program
$50 Registration Fee/family
$400 Supplies/Materials/Lab Fee 
$50/month Activities Fee

AP courses may require additional lab/material fees. Senior fees are to cover graduation costs.

Courses are also offered a-la-carte and vary in cost.

Multiple student discounts are available.

Tuition is due on the 1stof the month and late after the 5th. Payments can be dropped off at MLA, mailed to our accounting firm (preferable), or online payments can be set up.

Volunteers

Volunteers are welcomed and appreciated! We particularly need drivers and chaperones for field trips and other activities. Volunteers must have a background check on file with MLA. (These can be obtained for $8 from the Sherriff’s Office in your county). We value and appreciate our parent, and community volunteers as they make the MLA, and our student’s learning experience, a much richer one.

Withdrawals

 MLA is a non-profit enterprise, which operates on a narrow budget, planned around the number of students we are contracted to serve. 

Withdrawals should be accompanied by a brief, written note, stating the reasons for withdrawing the student. Extenuating circumstances, such as a job transfer, moving out of the area, or health issues, will allow for MLA to void the contract without penalty. Withdrawals for other reasons may be subject to forfeiture of deposit, and remaining tuition payments as outlined in the contract. 

 Withdrawals made before the 10thof the month will be remitted a prorated portion of paid tuition. After the 10th, no refund will be made. 

Parents will be given a transcript of grades to that point, and MLA will assist with any information which may be required by the new school for academic placement or records requirements.  Please allow a few days for everything to be put together for pickup or transfer to the new school.

Appendix A:

 

Mountain Laurel Academy
 Scholarship Program
Procedures

 

1. Scholarship consideration is based on any combination of financial, medical, academic, and/or any other situational need.

2. The determination of which families qualify for scholarships is considered on a case-by-case basis.

3. The criteria for this decision is based on a face-to-face discussion with the family to determine the basis for the need. 

4. These discussions are conducted by the school administrators, and will not involve a formal filing of financial needs paperwork, but, instead, will consider the needs of the student, combined with the family’s overall ability to support the cost of a private school education. (The socio-economic situation of the community we serve necessitates that most students will have some degree of financial need.   Over 60% of the households have income below $40,000 per year. Once that need is established, MLA’s focus is directed toward the specific emotional, medical, or academic needs of the child.) 

5. Final determination is made by the Board of Directors, with preference given to the neediest students, and due consideration made for the earlier application dates.

6. The numbers of scholarships and the amounts of each is limited by the existing funds available in the MLA Scholarship Fund at the time scholarships are being determined. 

7. The Board of MLA will consider requests at any time of the year based funding and existing need. 

 

Appendix B: 

Emergency Procedures

Review/practice monthly

Fire:

            1. Teachers will direct students to the nearest exit

            2. Exits are marked with emergency exit signs in each room.

            3. Exit routes are posted in each room.

            4. Students are to move to the farthest point of the parking lot/back yard.

            5. Teachers assess life and safety issues 1st.

            6. Call 911 if necessary.

            7. Count students, check rooms if possible.

            8. Assure students are safe until emergency services arrive.

 

Tornado/Weather Issues:

1.     Maintain weather alert status/updates

2.     Assess weather problems and take necessary action

3.     If time permits, consider early dismissal.

4.     Student and staff safety take priority

5.     If weather is serious, and imminent, seek safety

6.     Head to safe locations as advised

 

            Intruder/Threat:

1.     Announce “Threat at ___________ door!”

2.     Students will be directed to door at opposite/diagonal side of building, await instructions.

3.     Call 911/ Hit panic button if it is available

4.     Mr. Hites will address the threat

5.     Mrs. Norris will direct students/call 911

6.     If instructed, students will be led outside and as far away from the building as possible