Parents fear changes in online learning will force thousands of students to find new schools

Parents of students learning online in British Columbia fear changes to the system will force thousands of people to find new schools.

The Ministry of Education intends to introduce a new e-learning model from the year 2022-2023.

Among the changes, students would be required to attend an online learning school within their district – unless they enroll in a school designated to teach students across the province.

Almost 76,000 students attend the 69 online learning schools in British Columbia. Of these students, approximately 14,000 attend online schools outside of their district, which means they may no longer be able to attend the school of their choice.

A flexible learning environment

During the pandemic, the Banez family switched to online learning and never looked back.

“I have really seen the growth of my two children,” said Kaye Banez, especially with her nine-year-old son Lazarus who has autism.

“He was hitting academic milestones all the time. All of those things that we didn’t know he was capable of doing because in the school system we were constantly faced with behaviors.”

The living room at the Banez family home in Richmond, BC, has since been transformed into a classroom for Lazarus and his seven-year-old sister, Estella.

The flexibility of online learning and the specialized program offered by a school in Kamloops, B.C. works for the Banez family – but now they fear that next year they won’t be allowed to re-enroll because the school is outside their district.

“Autism and change don’t mix. The transition is so much more difficult when we have already found our sanctuary of a school,” Banez said.

Estella Banez does her homework on the computer in the family living room. (Garbiel Osorio / CBC News)

Star Nap chose e-learning for her three children – from Kindergarten to Grade 6 – because it gave her family more flexibility. They like to travel in the middle of the school year, using it as an educational opportunity, so they don’t have to worry about missed lessons.

The Nap family live in the Comox Valley, but the children’s online school is based in Powell River, which means they too risk losing the school of their choice.

Nap says online learning creates equity among students.

“For rural families, northern families, native families in remote communities, online learning really opens up huge opportunities for them,” says Nap.

“It really level the playing field for so many families and that’s why these ministry changes are so concerning.”

Upcoming consultation

Even though the new e-learning model is due to be implemented in less than a year, parents say details on this are thin.

According to the Department of Education, students and families will be able to choose courses or programs at online schools in their school district or independent school authority – or at a provincial public or independent school, which will be open to students. across British Columbia.

The ministry says eligible schools are invited to apply to become provincial providers, but it’s unclear how many will be chosen.

Our goal is to provide the best possible learning experience for students, wherever they live, and to minimize disruption of a child’s education as we modernize the delivery of e-learning programs, ” the ministry said in a statement.

“The changes are being put in place to support the BC curriculum and ensure that every student has equal and consistent access to quality education.

Banez and Nap say parents have not been included in the discussions and are forced to seek answers.

Autism BC, of ​​which Banez is a board member, sent an open letter to the department expressing concern and requesting clarification on the changes. Banez says the organization will meet with the ministry in October.

The ministry says parents and families are invited to voice their concerns in public forums to be held throughout October or through the e-learning website.

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