About Interior Distance Education of Alaska

Our Beginnings

The Galena City School District, a small village on the Yukon River, is known throughout the state for innovation in education. The district includes two other schools in addition to IDEA. The Galena City School educates local children in grades PK-12. Galena Interior Learning Academy is a boarding school for high school students that combines the best in educational methods with a focus on teaching practical vocational skills.

In June 1997, the Galena City School District created an innovative homeschool support program. At that time, all of the correspondence programs in Alaska, whether state-wide or in-district, sent a standard grade-level curriculum package to enrolled families and graded all of the student’s work through the mail. Galena was the first district to recognize national statistics showing the excellent academic experience that most homeschoolers were providing for their children, and to honor the individuality of homeschool approaches. Galena hired several homeschooling parents to be on staff right at the inception of IDEA. Their primary role was to provide a homeschooler’s perspective on every element of the program as it was created and developed. IDEA was founded on the then-unique principle of honoring the parent’s ability to provide an excellent one-on-one tutoring experience, using individualized curriculum materials and educational methods. Much to the surprise of most educators in the state, 1157 students were enrolled that first year, and enrollment tripled the following year. IDEA enrollment continued to rise and is currently over 7,000 students, the biggest school in Alaska. As a result of IDEA’s unprecedented popularity, there are now many similar programs in Alaska. However, we were the first and we strive to be the best!

Our Educational Philosophy

We believe that you know your child better than anyone else does, and we can support you best by bringing to you educational tools and tips, a wide variety of high-quality materials, advice and guidance, helpful workshops, and encouragement!

We believe that academic materials and an educational style that is truly individualized for each child provides the finest education. We do our best to allow for the most flexibility and individuality possible within a public school system.

We believe that we can learn from each other. We learn from our experiences with homeschoolers that excellence in education is dynamic and can take many forms. You learn from us what the “outside expectations” are for schoolchildren, and how you can best meet them. We hope that every interaction between IDEA and each homeschooling parent is one in which each comes away richer.

We believe that you are capable of providing a solid education, and that you will ask for input when needed. We are here to provide support and recommendations and to encourage you at all times. We are your cheerleaders!

Our Mission

IDEA Mission Statement:

The mission of the IDEA program is to provide resources and support to parents who have elected to educate their children at home; to achieve a partnership with families that honors the efforts and dedication of home-schooling parents.

IDEA Belief Statements:
  • Committed parents who have a keen understanding of their children’s learning styles and needs are capable of selecting appropriate curricular materials to meet each student’s individual educational needs.
  • A free-flowing exchange of knowledge and ideas among a community of learners is necessary to achieve quality instruction.
  • The best instruction is based upon the individual needs of each student.
  • A priority is to promote academic and civic excellence, meeting and exceeding the standards established by the State and the responsibilities needed for life in contemporary society.

Galena City School District Mission Statement:

Active, enthusiastic engagement that inspires learning for every student, in every content area, every day.

Who may enroll in IDEA:

  • You must be physically residing within the state.
  • The student must be between the ages of 5 and 19 on September 1st.
  • A student must be enrolled in at least four classes through IDEA to be considered full-time, and at least 50% of the coursework that the student takes through IDEA must be in core subject areas of English, math, social studies, science, technology, or world languages. (Or courses required by an IEP for students who are receiving special education services.) Exceptions can be made for seniors who do not need core courses in order to fulfill graduation requirements or students who scored advanced or proficient in English/language arts and mathematics on the AMP during the previous academic year.
  • Families who have at least one older child enrolled full-time in the IDEA Program may enroll pre-school siblings if they will be 4 years old by September 1 of the enrolling year.
When may you enroll?

Returning IDEA families are given the opportunity to re-enroll and/or add siblings in March of each year. We begin the enrollment process for new families in January for the following school year (beginning July 1). Although family enrollment for the new year does not begin until July 1, these new families will be included in our listservs and may begin to enjoy IDEA resources and activities. We scale back our enrollment efforts at the end of October so that we can turn our attention to serving the enrolled families’ specific needs. While we are allowed to enroll families throughout the school year, we strongly recommend not displacing a student mid-year.

Enrollment Options:

IDEA has several options to meet students’ needs. There is no cost to students who qualify.

  • Full-time Enrollment – In order to receive a full allotment, a student must be enrolled full-time in IDEA, which is defined by the state as four or more classes using non-sectarian materials, at least two of which must be in the core subject areas of math, language arts, science, social studies, foreign language, and technology.
  • IDEA students taking classes at a local public school – Funding from the state is awarded first to the district in which the student lives, at a rate of 25% per class. So for example, if your child takes one class at the local school, the local district receives 25% funding, and IDEA receives 75% funding for that student, regardless of the number of classes taken through IDEA. Since the money that IDEA receives from the state is reduced by ¼ for each of these classes, this student’s allotment is also reduced by ¼ for each class taken elsewhere. A student is not eligible for enrollment with IDEA if they are a full time student at another public school at the same time.
  • IDEA students taking classes at a local private school – Students may take classes at a private school while enrolled in IDEA. In order to receive full allotment a student must take at least four courses that meet the criteria for being “counted”: secular, 50% core, and not substantially similar. The four courses for full IDEA enrollment can include courses provided through the private school so long as they meet the same three criteria for being “counted.” (Contact us for more details.)
  • Part Time Enrollment – Students may be enrolled on a part-time basis in IDEA, taking 1, 2, or 3 courses through IDEA. The allotment available to them would depend on what other enrollment they may have elsewhere, so questions should be handled on an individual basis. Because all enrollment criteria apply to part-time students as well as full-time students, if only one course is taken through IDEA, it must (with few exceptions) be a core class as defined above.

Special Education

Both state and federal laws guarantee the right of special needs children to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment within their district of residence. Before IDEA enrolls a student who is eligible to receive special education services, the student must meet IDEA’s enrollment criteria and the student’s IEP team (parent, child-when appropriate, and representatives from IDEA and the district of residence) must determine the least restrict environment. The IEP team determines if your child would be best instructed through homeschooling or if services will be provided by the district of residence. If the district of residence will be providing services, IDEA must enter into a cooperative agreement with your local school district to determine the delivery of those special education services specified in your child’s IEP (State regulation 4 AAC 33.432). Please read the Special Education section of this handbook for further information. If you have questions, feel free to call Tracy Culbert, GCSD Director of Special Education, at 907-374-2200.

Report Card to the Public:

The IDEA Report card to the public can be found here: IDEA publications & documents

The IDEA Report card to the public is a report that each school district prepares each summer, summarizing the previous school year.  It is a multi-page pdf document, so you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it and it will take several minutes to download. It will go faster if you right-click and choose “Save Target As…” to save on your computer, then open after it has finished downloading.

Ready to enroll?

Click below to fill out our online enrollment form. You may also give us a call at 1-877-582-4332 and we would be happy to walk you through signing up over the phone.

Click to Enroll Online