The Langley School District is exploring options for remote learning for some students this fall, following a provincial announcement Wednesday.
The province has been charting a course that aimed to put the vast majority of students back in classrooms starting as early as Sept. 10, but Education Minister Rob Fleming announced that districts would be allowed to create online learning options on Aug. 26.
“In government, things change,” said Langley School Board Chair Megan Dykeman.
The back to school plan the district issued Wednesday does contain a small mention of remote learning.
“As mandated by the province, our district is committed to maximizing in-class instruction for all students with the current health and safety guidelines for schools however, the district understands that there are many families that are anxious about the restart,” the plan says.
“In the coming days, our district will continue to explore opportunities to assist families and determine the demand for school-based remote learning.”
The district will also host a one-hour online town hall Thursday, Aug. 27 from 7 to 8 p.m. Visit sd35.bc.ca to learn more or to log in for the meeting. Superintendent of Schools Gord Stewart is to answer questions emailed in by families.
However, he likely won’t be able to say exactly how big a remote learning program the district may set up.
“Our district needs to measure the demand first,” Dykeman said.
Starting this week and continuing up to Sept. 4, school principals will be contacting every family and surveying them on what their intentions are for the coming school year.
That will give the district some idea of how many parents are hoping to keep their kids home and take part in remote learning, and whether it’s a small number or a larger percentage of the 23,000 students in Langley’s public schools.
Until they know the numbers the district can’t determine how much an online learning program might cost.
The Langley Advance Times asked a Ministry of Education spokesperson if additional teachers would be needed to take on online education programs, and if so, if the ministry would be providing additional funding.
“School districts will be working with their local unions to ensure teachers have the resources they need to continue delivering education to students without being overworked,” was the ministry response.
Different districts and schools would have different approaches, the ministry said, emphasizing “flexibility” several times.
“Additionally, the federal government announced new funding today [Aug. 25] to support provincial school restart plans,” the ministry statement said. “Every dollar of the federal funding will benefit students. With this funding now in place, we’ll look to expand on our $45.6 million investment into enhanced cleaning protocols, purchases of PPE and increased capacity for remote learning.”
There was no definite answer on how much money might assist districts in funding remote learning.
Dykeman said that the district’s return to school plan has been approved by the Ministry of Education, but it will now be tweaked before the start of the year.
Because the plans are based on provincial ministry mandates, there is no need for the school board to vote on the plans, but Dykeman said the boards have been working with staff, speaking to parents, First Nations, and other stakeholders, and consulting with Fraser Health officials.