What's it like to work with F3?
Working with us is like working with a member of your own team. We understand your mission and your challenges and live them with you: the annual changes you face, the pressures, the insufficient time and resources. Because we are full service – but education-only – we can help no matter what’s ahead.
What can F3 solve for you?
F3 can assist you at any stage of your independent study planning and implementation. We have been there for schools when it was uncommon, when it was state mandated, and when it became optional. With every legislative change and community mandate come legal implications, and we’re here to guide you through them all.
“No matter who or where they are or how they learn, our job is to help schools deliver the education they deserve.”– Lyndsy Rodgers, Partner
Virtual learning, also variously called remote learning, independent study, and distance learning, has been around for decades – long before the COVID epidemic. It was a niche service provided by public schools. In California, thanks largely to COVID, the pendulum between 2020 and 2022 swung from three modes of learning (including in-person learning, limited use of independent study (IS), and home/hospital instruction (HHI)) to mandated IS, to optional IS that districts were required to make available, and finally to optional IS determined by local districts. It’s no wonder school districts throughout the state needed help.
F3 has long been the go-to resource for districts needing not only to manage ever-shifting compliance with complex and shifting independent study regulation, but also to design and implement compliant and effective IS programs no matter where they were in the process. The lawyers at F3, steeped in every nuance of public education, became that resource and have helped hundreds of California districts meet every challenge they have faced in this arena. When it comes to independent study, those challenges include daily attendance, which determines funding, program design, compliance, technology, staffing, labor negotiation, and so much more.
Since 2020, the California legislature has told school districts what their programming options and requirements were going to be for the upcoming school year at the time the budget bill passed (usually early July). Those requirements change each year, forcing school administrators to create program options for the Fall within two months and without most of their teaching staff. Within the context of legislative requirements and the mission a district has established for itself, many questions need answers. What should the district offer? What’s the plan to provide independent study services in the event of a future emergency school closure (a new legal requirement). Beyond any legislated mandates, what does the community demand regarding independent study, and is it the same for all district schools? How will the district ensure English language learners, foster youth, homeless youth, or students working below grade level are properly served? And how will equal access to free appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with special needs be provided? Few school districts have the internal resources to address each of these questions on their own. Each district will be unique in how it responds, but there are common threads, and F3 attorneys have the broad experience to help every district determine its own right answers.
Adequately staffing in-person education can be challenging enough, and independent study programs add to that challenge. How will the district staff both mandatory and voluntary programs? Which attendance staff will support these programs? Are the district’s collective bargaining agreements impacted, and do they include limitations? How can districts propose changes? Answering such questions requires the experience and perspective of attorneys who have helped hundreds of districts of all kinds throughout the state find the right answers.
Independent study programs in California have legal requirements, as do home and hospital instruction programs (HHI). Districts need to serve students with special needs in a legally compliant and student-centered manner while still providing equal access. Adequate documentation and online data management systems must be in place. Auditors need specific information maintained in specific ways. Forms must be legally compliant. And perhaps above all, staff needs training in all of these requirements – which often change. It’s our job at F3 to understand all of these requirements and advise/guide our clients in how best to meet them.
The amount of funding a school district gets is based upon its “average daily attendance” (ADA), when students actually attend school. Annually legislated independent study requirements govern how school districts count attendance for funding purposes. Independent study has historically been fraught with audit-findings and problems with ADA apportionment because there are so many compliance details that can trip districts up. F3 has always been there to help districts understand the complexities of compliance and to help implement needed changes within tight time constraints. In addition to helping clients set up their independent study programs to ensure full ADA capture, F3 can also help respond to a negative audit finding and/or with after-the-fact audit appeals if needed.