Guidance on Enrollment, Attendance and Education of Children Age Six and Younger

There have been questions about the laws and rules that govern the enrollment, attendance, and education of our youngest learners, as schools consider recent legislation, and the expanding number and size of public preschools programs.

During the 129th Legislature, LD 150 and LD 151 both addressed the age of compulsory attendance.

LD 151 lowered the compulsory age for attendance in school to age 6.  This includes children who are accessing private or home instruction options.  In addition, there is clarification that children five years of age who are enrolled in a public or publicly-funded educational setting are required to attend, unless a parent/guardian has formally withdrawn them from school. All student attendance data should be reported and monitored for chronic absenteeism and truancy.  For further guidance regarding truancy, please see our website.  We encourage districts to consider their policies and protocols for supporting student attendance, and for reporting concerns to, and engaging with, partner agencies as needed.

This clarification is also a reminder that students, regardless of age, cannot be removed or unenrolled from a school that is receiving public funds without the due process afforded to those students and families in 20-A M.R.S. § 1001(8-A and 9). In addition, school administrative units may not unilaterally determine that a child attend on a modified schedule (e.g. abbreviated school day, reduced school week).  Parents/guardians must be involved in, and agree to, this decision and understand thoroughly the reasons for the request.

There are additional considerations for preschool students who have been identified as eligible to receive special education or English language acquisition services.

In accordance with Federal and State law, a child may not be excluded from enrollment in a public preschool program based solely on the presence of a disability or English language acquisition needs.  Enrolled children who are referred to Child Development Services (CDS), based on program concerns regarding the child’s development or behavior, must be considered a child with a disability and afforded the same rights as his/her K-12 peers until the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team makes determinations.

The parents/guardians of all public preschool students must be administered the Maine DOE Language Use Survey, and if the student has a primary/home language other than English, an English language proficiency screener must be administered. If a student is identified as an English learner, English language acquisition services must be provided. A student cannot be denied access to public preschool on the basis of language acquisition needs.

We are committed to providing ongoing resources and support to educators, and to fostering partnerships with other educators and service providers. We encourage all to reach out to our staff and to watch for upcoming professional development opportunities on building an inclusive classroom, using trauma-informed practices, and integrating social-emotional learning into curriculum.

  • For resources and support with public preschool programs, please contact Nicole Madore, Early Childhood Specialist at 624-6677 or Nicole.madore@maine.gov
  • For CDS questions and support, contact Kris Michaud, State Early Childhood Special Education Technical Advisor at 592-1406 or kristopher.michaud@maine.gov with questions or comments about the guidance.
  • For questions and support regarding general attendance or truancy, please contact Gayle Erdheim at 207-624-6637 or gayle.erdheim@maine.gov, or refer to our webpage.
  • For questions and support regarding students who are English learners, contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III, at 624-7726 or april.perkins@maine.gov.

Updated Maine DOE Home Instruction Portal Release  

In March of this year, the Department of Education (DOE) released the online Home Instruction Portal. Since then, home instruction parents all over the state have begun to utilize the new portal, and have reported that the new process is less burdensome than the former paper-only process, which required double-reporting and greater expense and time due to mailing and requesting proof of receipt.

Many have also provided valuable feedback about what was confusing, or concerning, from a parent perspective. As a result, the DOE revisited the online forms to make some technical improvements, and has released an updated Home Instruction Portal as of July 9, 2019. If you submitted your Notice for 2019-2020 prior to this date, please be assured that it is still properly filed, and there is no need to repeat the submission.

If you have not yet filed your Notice, please check out the updated online portal. Other ways to file include submitting the revised Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction, or other form or letter, to either the Superintendent of Schools in the public school administrative unit where you reside, or to the DOE. You no longer need to file paperwork in both places. You may provide Notice in a different format, provided it contains all required information:

  • Applicable School Year
  • Parent/Guardian Full Name
  • Physical Address, City, Zip Code; and Mailing Address (if different)
  • Child’s Full Name
  • Child’s Date of Birth
  • Indicate First or Subsequent Year of Home Instruction
  • Date Home Instruction Will Begin (if First Year)
  • Assurance (if First Year): FIRST YEAR HOME INSTRUCTION PARENT ASSURANCE :  The home instruction program will provide at least 175 days annually of instruction and will provide instruction in the following subject areas: English and language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts and, in at least one grade from grade 6 to 12, Maine studies. At one grade level from grade 7 to 12, the student will demonstrate proficiency in the use of computers. The home instruction program will include an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress that includes at least one of the forms of assessment described in 20-A M.R.S. § 5001-A (3)(A)(4)(b).
  • Prior Year Assessment (if Subsequent Year)
  • Statement of Intent to Continue Providing Home Instruction (if Subsequent Year): SUBSEQUENT YEAR HOME INSTRUCTION PARENT STATEMENT: I intend to continue providing home instruction and enclose the prior year annual assessment of the student’s academic progress as outlined in 20-A M.R.S. 5001-A(3)(A)(4)(b).
  • Signature
  • Date of Signature
  • A valid email address if parent would like an acknowledgment

As a reminder, the updated process will allow parents to provide first/subsequent year notice “simultaneously to the school officials of the administrative unit in which the student resides and to the commissioner” in one of three ways:

  1. Enter information once annually directly on the new Home Instruction Portal, uploading any required prior year assessment information;
  2. Complete the form or letter on paper once annually and take it, with any required prior year assessments, to the resident superintendent’s office; or
  3. Complete the paper form or other form/letter once annually and mail it with any required prior year assessments to the Department of Education or to the Superintendent’s Office.

Submission using any of the methods described will result in the automatic generation of an acknowledgment to the parent/guardian via email, provided a valid email address is provided.

More information is available at https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/schoolops/homeinstruction.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Pamela Ford-Taylor at pamela.ford-taylor@maine.gov or 207-624-6617.

New Homeschool Portal and SAU Superintendent Office Online Entry Underway

The Department is pleased to announce the opening of the new Online NEO Homeschool Portal for school year 2019-2020, and the more efficient Notice of Intent to Homeschool form. The new portal brings some changes to the Homeschool Notice process, including an enhanced role for superintendents and/or SAU homeschool administrative designees who will now share responsibility for entering information into the new portal.

Summary of changes:

  • Parents submitting a Notice for 2019-2020 no longer need to submit the information in two places or use certified mail to ensure the delivery of the form. They may use one of the three methods described below.
  • The portal will be the point of entry for parents. Superintendents or SAU and DOE homeschool administrative designees who enter information on behalf of resident parents who choose option 2 or 3 below will also utilize the portal for data entry.
  • The new Notice of Intent to Homeschool combines and replaces the previous Notice of Intent and Subsequent Year forms.

The new portal will allow parents to submit the Notice of Intent and Subsequent Year Letter and assessments once in one of three ways:

  1. Enter information directly on the new NEO online homeschool portal, and upload prior year required assessment information;
  2. Complete the form by hand and take it, with prior year required assessments, to the resident Superintendent’s Office for upload and entry into the system; OR
  3. Complete the new paper form and mail it with prior year required assessments to the Department of Education or to the Superintendent’s Office, where it will be entered into the new system.

Submission using one of the below methods will result in the automatic generation of an acknowledgement to the parent/guardian via email; please ensure that a valid and correct email address has been provided.

Superintendents and/or designees will utilize the new online homeschool portal in NEO in 2019-2020 to:

  • Enter paper forms received from parents. The Department will also be entering paper forms, so a duplicate check must be performed prior to entry.
  • Assist resident parents in completing the online homeschool process.
  • View a list of all the resident homeschool students in the Superintendent’s SAU.
  • Comply with homeschool roster requirements in Maine DOE Rule Chapter 125, sec.12.02 Roster of Resident, Tuition, and Transfer Students
  1. A) The superintendent of each school administrative unit shall maintain a roster of all resident and tuition students attending schools operated by the unit.
  2. B) The superintendent of each school administrative unit shall maintain a roster of all students eligible to attend school within the unit who are receiving equivalent instruction in an approved or non-approved private school, or in an approved equivalent instruction program.

Parents may read Maine’s statute related to homeschooling, including information about required assessments using this link: Title 20-A, Section 5001-A, Sub-section 3(A)(4).

Please note that online Homeschool Portal functionality works for the 2019-2020 school year forward; it may not be used for 2018-2019 school year homeschool students.

Please direct any questions or concerns to our Pamela Ford-Taylor at pamela.ford-taylor@maine.gov or 207-624-6617.