Dear Senator Gallegos, Representative Alvarado, Policy Makers:
I am writing to you today to appeal to you for assistance for my grandson, Zak, a Texas third grader. Please allow me to share a little background on Zak:
Zak resides in Houston, Texas. His address is in the Pasadena School District. Zak has severe Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). This heart disease is a progressive one that causes Zak’s heart to thicken abnormally. In Zak’s case, his septum measures 31mm which is approximately three times that of a normal child’s heart. The consequences of this can be fatal. It’s a genetic condition which has greatly impacted his family. Zak’s aunt died at 16, another aunt died at 33, his grandmother died at 58 all from HCM. In addition, his father is on the heart transplant list at the age of 34 because of his end-stage HCM. His older brother Quest, also has HCM and is currently less severe. Zak is scheduled to have heart surgery on August 7th to implant a defibrillator and pacemaker this year.
Zak attended first grade in Pasadena ISD. The situation did not work well and his condition suffered. Not feeling there was another choice, my daughter homeschooled Zak last year. There are three Texas teachers in this family which is positive.
However, we would love for Zak to be able to attend Texas Virtual Public School. In fact, due to some complications of his health, his older brother will be attending virtual public school, as well. Quest, his older brother, was enrolled with no problems as his health had allowed him to attend school at a public school in Texas the previous year.
However, Zak has been told he’s ineligible for enrollment in a virtual public school. The reason, it seems is in the Education Code 30A.002(b) which states: “A student is eligible to enroll full-time in courses provided through the state virtual school network only if the student: (1) was enrolled in a public school in this state in the preceding school year…”
This section of the code is having a profound and critical impact on Zak and his educational opportunities simply because his health required a year of homeschooling. Zak is not allowed to enroll in a program that would have afforded him the guidance of the Texas Education Board as well as allow him a sense of normalcy by enrolling and interacting with this classmates and teachers in the online virtual school environment. Considering that Zak has spent his life as a resident of Texas and is a resident of a Texas school district, considering him ineligible for the benefits afforded to any other Texas student is simply wrong. It’s even more difficult to understand when the situation is based upon consequences from a life-threatening health issue.
I am writing to you to ask for your proactive leadership in changing Sec. 30A.002(b) of the Texas Educational Code. Please support my plea to change this section to provide equitable opportunity for Texas children to attend the state virtual public school as soon as possible so that Zak and other students like him do not have to continue to be excluded from this opportunity. Most importantly, please ensure that students who have serious health conditions are provided the opportunity to participate in the state virtual school alongside those students who are lucky enough to be healthy.
I look forward to hearing from you on this timely matter.
Along with my role as Zak’s grandmother, I have also been a Texas Teacher for over 20 years!