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Friday Feature: St. John the Baptist Hybrid School

Colleen Hroncich

With a long‐​time career as a Physician Associate in cardiology, Sharon Masinelli might not seem like someone who would become an education entrepreneur. But sometimes fate takes an interesting turn. “My children were homeschooled in a hybrid program for about seven years,” she explained in a recent Cato Institute panel. “And I was driving a very long distance to get to these other programs. I finally decided it was time to start something a little bit closer to where we lived.”

Sharon started St. John the Baptist Hybrid School in Kennesaw, GA, in 2019. “It was just a group of families who all had said, ‘Yes, we need a good option for our families in this area,’” she recalled. “We started the program with about 50 students the first year renting out of a church. And then COVID hit at that time, and it became a very popular option for us. We had a waitlist the second year, because we were open when the public schools were not. And so we grew. And then by the third and fourth year, we had gotten to 120 students.”

St. John the Baptist operates as a hybrid homeschool program in the Catholic tradition for grades K‑12. Elementary students have on‐​site classes on Mondays and Wednesdays with the option to take enrichment classes on Fridays. The high school program meets in person on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Parents receive lesson plans for instruction at home on homeschool days. The school also offers standardized testing, and scores are reviewed with parents to customize the learning plan for each student.

Although a hybrid, St. John the Baptist has the look and feel of a school. As Sharon told the Cato audience, “We have uniforms. We’re in very traditional looking classrooms. It’s just economical, particularly for larger families who may want to be more highly involved in their child’s education. Rather than sending them five days a week and wondering, ‘What did you talk about today in language arts?’ or ‘What did you do today in math?’ the parent is taking over on those other days of the week.”

The typical day at St. John the Baptist includes math, physical education, language arts, and science. The students do science experiments at the school, which is quite helpful for homeschooling parents. History and religious classes are held once a week. The Friday enrichment classes include art, music, Spanish, and writing and math labs. In addition to the regular high school classes, students can take virtual AP and Dual Enrollment courses through the school’s partnership with TandemEdu and Arrupe Virtual Learning Institute.

When an audience member asked about the most important things parents who are thinking about homeschooling should consider, Sharon was blunt about the challenges: “It is actually a lot of work on the parents. Whoever is home and homeschooling the child must be fully in on the job of homeschooling. It is hard work. It’s very rewarding work, don’t get me wrong. But it is not an easy task. And it takes a lot of time getting used to how you homeschool your child and your child’s temperament, and having a schedule or not having a schedule. There are things that may work for one child that don’t work for the next child. And so you have to figure that out. And the only way to do it is just to do it, and then make sure you’re adjusting as needed.”

Another audience member asked about working with public schools and the question that always comes up when homeschooling is discussed: what about socialization? “We highly encourage our families to go out into the community and play community sports. We don’t want them in a bubble,” Sharon explained. “Our program is a VELA recipient, and so we find ways to reach out to other VELA programs and collaborate with them. We have dances with another hybrid program. It’s just it’s in the best interest of everyone to collaborate as much as possible. We do not want to alienate the public schools or even the private schools. It is an effort from multiple angles to educate our children and to have them in the real world setting.”

If you’re interested in learning more about St. John the Baptist Hybrid School and the other microschools and hybrid schools who participated in our Showcasing Education Entrepreneurs event, you can watch the recording online. And check out the full library of Friday Feature blogs to read about a wide variety of exciting educational options.

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