However, the Sea to Sky School District says students can attend a local online school or a provincial online learning school.
Some local parents are concerned that online education programs for their children will be changed or taken away from them.
Bill 8which changes the schools’ online learning model, is expected to come into effect for the 2022 to 2023 school year.
“The problem is that our [online] schools, just some of them, will no longer exist and the options we have left will not understand the needs of our children the way current schools do,” said Jenn Scharf, local education consultant and parent of an autistic student.
The issue was also raised in a letter to the editor of the Squamish Chief this month by Anna Marie Rutishauser, a local parent.
In the letter, Rutishauser said that from September 2022, online students will be required to attend an online school in their district, unless they enroll in a provincial online learning school, or POLS. .
She said registration for online schools is scheduled for January to February 2022, but parents won’t know which online schools will receive the POLS designation until July 2022.
The fear is that online schools that do not receive the POLS designation will be forced to close, leaving those who enrolled at that school out of luck.
Not all students who choose online learning have learning difficulties. However, for parents whose children have cognitive differences, the specter of losing their current online programs could be catastrophic, as it’s the only way to meet their children’s complex needs, Scharf said.
In response to these concerns, the Department of Education issued a written statement to the Chief.
“The majority of students are taking online classes in their own school district and will not be affected by the move to this new model,” the statement said.
“We anticipate that all students taking classes or programs outside of their district will be served by Provincial Online Schools, and that no student will lose their services… Online Learning Schools that do not become provincial providers do not need to close and can still provide services to students in the district.”
The Squamish School District also weighed in on the situation.
Nolan Cox, director of the Sea to Sky online school and chief technology officer for the district, said the Department of Education had not suggested the closure of local online schools.
“The British Columbia Distributed Learning Administrators’ Association is working with the Department of Education on issues regarding the coexistence of Provincial Online Schools (POLS) and Local Online Schools. Students will have additional options, as they can enroll in local schools online and/or enroll in a POLS,” Cox said in a written statement to the chief.
He said it is wrong to say that online schools that are not selected to become POLS will be shut down. Sea to Sky Online School will not be closing.
Nolan added that parents will be able to choose between a POLS or the local Sea to Sky online school.
For Scharf, a major concern is that students who do not enter a POLS may then be required to attend their local school district’s online learning services – but not all school districts have programs tailored to help children with complex needs.
Going back to in-person learning isn’t an option because that style of learning is often not suitable for students with complex needs, Scharf said.
It’s often a traumatic experience for these students, she says.
To make this point, Scharf has compiled a report, called Stories of exclusion.
This is a collection of vignettes from across British Columbia that showcase the challenges these children face in a traditional school system.
“[My son] was not assisted by co-regulation and was repeatedly placed in a room which we were told was a ‘quiet room’ and later discovered to be a tiny wooden closet cement with a small window. He became more and more distressed and didn’t want to leave when we dropped him off at school,” a parent reminisced in the report.
“He now suffers from PTSD because of the psychological abuse he suffered in public school. He also has very low self-esteem and very low self-esteem. The school we were at dismissed our concerns regarding isolation and refused to make any changes that would help.”
The report is filled with a number of stories that highlight similar challenges.
Scharf said it’s difficult and stressful not knowing what the next stage will bring.
“I think that [the government is] aware of a lot of those concerns at this point,” she said. “There are still a lot of unknowns about how this is all going to play out.”
The Department for Education, however, said the aim is to provide the best possible learning experience for students, no matter where they live, and to ensure the least possible disruption to a student’s education. child by modernizing the delivery of e-learning programs.
“Many of the proposed changes are the result of feedback from staff, parents, advocates and others in the education sector on how to improve the online learning model since 2019 and plan to implement a new model in 2022/23,” reads the ministry’s statement.
The ministry also added that these changes are still open to public comment.
Parents and families are encouraged to participate in the forums which will be held until October in collaboration with British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) and Federation of Independent School Associations of British Columbia (FISA BC) to ensure families have a say.
“Additional information on the number and location of provincial online schools will be available in spring 2022 following provincial consultation and engagement,” the province said.
“The ministry is working with stakeholders to develop the process and criteria for selecting provincial online schools. This process is expected to begin in November 2021 and information will be available ahead of the 2022/23 registration dates.”