Thousands of BC Children may lose their Distributed Learning Schools Next Year
For Immediate Release Contact:
The B.C. Ministry of Education is proposing widespread changes to distributed learning programs that will take effect next year (2022). The ministry is no longer allowing students to enroll in programs outside of their school district (with the exception of a few schools that will be chosen as Provincial Online Learning Schools), with the end result being that thousands of B.C. students are likely to lose their schools.
· Ministry of Education is making changes to DL (Distributed Learning) and IDL (Independent Distributed Learning) Schools
· Changes will take effect next year (some changes are already taking effect this year)
· About 10% of all K-12 students in B.C. attended DL/ IDL schools in 2020-2021
· Students will no longer be able to attend school outside of their district (unless it is a school selected to become a Provincial Online Learning School)
· Thousands of children may lose their DL/ IDL schools, since many students are enrolled outside of their district
· Parents did not ask for this change and were not been consulted about it before it was made public
· Children with special needs will be adversely affected by these changes
· Over 2000 B.C. parents have joined a group to protest these changes
B.C. has a proud history of supporting distributed learning. In fact, in 1919, B.C. became the first province in Canada to offer distributed learning for students in remote areas via correspondence. That proud tradition has continued to this day, and B.C. has 69 Distributed Learning (DL) and Independent Distributed Learning (IDL) Schools. Students in DL and IDL schools follow the B.C. curriculum, have their work graded by a B.C. certified teacher, and receive report cards. The learning mostly occurs at home via parent instruction, but many DL programs include in-person classes and activity days. In 2020-21, around 65,000 K-12 students were enrolled in courses at DL and IDL (Independent Distributed Learning) schools, meaning that 10% of ALL K-12 students make use of these schools. In short, these are critical schools responsible for educating a large number of children in B.C..
The nature of Distributed Learning is that students do not need to be located close to their child’s school. Accordingly, families have been able to find the program in B.C. that best met their child’s needs. Currently, there are no geographic limitations when enrolling in a DL or IDL school. If a child in the Comox Valley finds the best fit with a DL school based in Surrey, they are welcome to enroll. For families of children with special needs, this has been a particular benefit, since some DL and IDL schools have greater resources, experience, and programs suited to their child’s needs. The Ministry is removing that option in 2022, which means that thousands of students will not be able to register in their DL and IDL school of choice. Students will be forced to register with their local DL or one of the select few DL/ IDL schools chosen as a Provincial Online Learning School. Choice will be severely limited and the remaining schools will have to adapt to the influx of thousands of new students in a very short time. This includes an influx of students into public schools, which in many communities are already very full or at capacity.
“We have been with our DL teacher for seven years. She knows our family and children really well and we are all devastated to think that we may lose her as our teacher when the Ministry changes take effect” Star Nap, Comox Valley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"I'm a student at Regent Christian Online Academy in grade 11. I've been at RCOA for the last 11 years and absolutely loved every single one of them. I'd be completely devastated if I wasn't able to graduate from RCOA next year. I want my right to education choice to be preserved, not limited. DL school enrolment is higher than ever, and my school is already an expert at providing quality online education. How will reducing DL's beautiful diversity benefit our province's diverse students?" Maiya Stevenson, Grade 11
A large portion of students who will lose their DL/ IDL school have special needs that are being well addressed in the current DL/ IDL system. Many of these students have left public “bricks and mortar” schools after bullying, trauma, and a failure by the school to meet their complex needs. A report has been collected, called The Stories of Exclusion Project, that documents the experiences of 60 families and why they have chosen DL/ IDL schools.
“My son is registered with a DL School that is out of my local area. I chose this school because it was the best learning style for my son who has special needs. My son was no longer able to attend a “brick and mortar” school due to the school being unable to meet his needs in a safe manner for everyone. Having a choice of school and learning style is the most important factor for my son’s success. We could not find a local school (brick and mortar nor online) that was a good fit. Not all children are the same and not all children learn the same. My son needs the type of learning opportunities that our chosen school offers. After 5 years in a traditional learning setting, we realized it wasn't working. My son is finally completing school tasks and enjoying his learning.” Kristina Plamondon, Prince George (email@example.com)
One of the main reasons that parents of children with special needs choose DL/ IDL schools has to do with the way that funding is administered. In a “bricks and mortar” school setting, the school district receives extra funding for each child with a designated special need, but that funding goes to the school district and is not spent on the individual child. In DL and IDL schools, the funding goes directly towards the individual child’s needs (physical therapists, specialized tutors). The difference is extraordinary, which is why so many parents have chosen DL/ IDL schools. Changes to the DL and IDL model puts this practice at risk, which is leaving families of children with special needs anxious about the future.
“My daughter struggled in public school as she had a different learning style. When I was able to choose another curriculum suited to her learning style, she excelled and quickly moved into advanced mathematics. Why wouldn’t we all want the choice to afford my children these successes? The IDL system works, and it works well. Please don’t rob us of the opportunity to better our children’s education!” Jenn Xie Urbanowski, Terrace (Jenni.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Over 2000 B.C. parents have joined together to advocate for their DL and IDL schools. These changes were not asked for by the parents, and parents are overwhelmingly opposed to reducing their choice in schools. The ministry has stated that they are welcoming parent input, but emails to them go unanswered, and changes are being finalized without consultation. These changes are supposed to go into effect next fall (2022), but the list of Provincial Online Learning Schools is not expected to be released until next spring (after registration usually begins). Considering that this change is going to affect 10% of B.C. children within the next year, remarkably little information has been released. B.C. Parents want to keep their current DL and IDL options open and to continue to exercise the right to choose the school that best meets the needs of their child.
“My son whom is 9years old on the spectrum and ADHD as well as FASD. We chose Homeschooling thru an IDL, as we wanted a Christian based education. He began schooling this way right from the beginning Kindergarten-present grade 4. He has many struggles with learning and as a former EA I knew he would not survive in our public system. He cannot sit in a desk for a long period of time and needs a ton of breaks and one on one help, which he would never get in the public school. He is flourishing by being able to run in the yard when he needs it or jump on his tramp. He has many tools to help him learn and remember what he’s learning. He stays focused when I sit with him which is great for our mother son connection. He has grown up to be an amazing child! Homeschooling is definitely the appropriate approach to learning for my son as he does not fit in that box of learning in a public system. If we lose our option to learn at home I am not sure he will make it through to grade 12. Which really makes my husband and I extremely sad, because he could become something with this opportunity of home learning.” Pam Vanderhoek, Port Alberni (email@example.com)
"We are a home learning family of 11 years, and we really value the options that have been available to our children as they go through different stages in their learning. We have gone from using the local DL, to switching to a DL in another city, and they are now cross enrolled in different schools in their the grad years. This flexibility has aided my children, and allowed them to follow learning opportunities that they need. The proposed changes will drastically alter how we home learn and have devastating effects on my children’s grad years, since they are already committed to pursuing a specific path. If the proposed changes go through, we will no longer be able to home learn with an online school out of our district. My children have made friends and formed relationships with teachers and it would be upsetting to have that disturbed in an already volatile world. Please keep independent online schooling as it is. They are doing a wonderful job of meeting the diverse needs of the community and should be commended instead of dismantled." Leah Pillet, Maple Ridge (firstname.lastname@example.org)