New Westminster’s home learners and online programs will continue as is for another year after the B.C. Ministry of Education put planned changes to distance learning on hold.
The Ministry of Education is eyeing a shift to a new system for what had formerly been known as “distributed learning” – that is, distance programs offered outside of bricks-and-mortar schools.
Under the new system, online learning programs can be offered to students within a particular school district; if a school district wants to accept out-of-district students, it would have to apply to become a designated provincial online learning school.
Those changes were to take effect for the 2022/23 school year.
The news called the fate of the Hume Park Home Learners Program into question because the program wouldn’t fit the definition of online learning.
In January, the School District 40 board voted to write an advocacy letter to the Ministry of Education in support of the program, asking the ministry to find ways to keep it going.
Maryam Naser, SD40’s associate superintendent, reported back to trustees on April 12 that the proposed changes have now been delayed for another year.
For 2022/23, districts can continue with their existing distributed learning programs. Now, the ministry plans to implement its changes for the 2023/24 school year instead.
That means both Hume Park Home Learners and the existing New West Online program, which offers grades 9 to 12 courses for high-school-aged and adult learners, can continue as is for the upcoming school year.
The district has also submitted an expression of interest in becoming a designated provincial online learning school so it can continue to accept out-of-district students.
Naser said districts should hear back by the end of this school year on whether they have been chosen.
In the meantime, she said, the New West Online program is transitioning to the province’s new learning management system so it’s ready for the shift when and if it happens.
What is the Hume Park Home Learners Program?
The Hume Park Home Learners Program, based in the former elementary school building at Hume Park, currently has about 120 students enrolled in kindergarten through Grade 8 – half from within the New Westminster school district and half from outside its boundaries.
Families develop learning plans in partnership with teachers, following the B.C. curriculum, and students learn both at home and on site. The program gives families access to the same supports they’d find in a traditional school – teacher, counsellor, resource teacher, speech language pathologist – but students can learn in the ways that work for them.
Students participate in some class and small-group learning on site, both inside the school and outdoors in the surrounding park and greenspace along the Brunette River.