A program that grew from serving a couple of hundred students pre-COVID-19 to serving close to 3,000 when the pandemic struck will continue for Rocky View Schools (RVS).
At the request of the administration, the board of trustees recently gave their approval for the online learning program for grades 1 to 12 to continue for 2021-2022 and into the future.
RVS Superintendent Greg Luterbach told trustees at their recent meeting that in August 2020, in response to the pandemic, RVS decided to provide a fully online option for all students in grade 1 - 12. Approximately 3,000 students, or between 10 and 12 percent of the division's enrollment signed up for the program at the beginning of the year, with about the same number choosing it for the second half of the school year in February.
RVS provided staffing for the option within a number of weeks to start the year and has been able to offer faith-based programs, French immersion as well as the full lineup of programs for grades 1 to 12.
"I don't think we got very far into it and both staff and families were asking, 'is this going to continue beyond this year," says Luterbach. "What I am here to say today is that, from the administrative point of view, we are keen to continue the program into next year and beyond."
Luterbach thinks the online learning program can meet a need for students and families and, with what he calls "an amazing staff," believes the program should continue.
A task force has been created to make recommendations to Luterbach for how the online learning program should operate in the years to come. He says there was no shortage of eager volunteers to sit on the task force. The group will be expected to solicit feedback from current online teachers, parents, and students to help shape the future of the program. To begin with, a survey has been developed and sent to online families and RVS staff.
RVS wants to move online learning from simply being a response to the pandemic and make it.
Luterbach says, "A proud and strong offering from RVS that we offer to our families for their children and make this go on and be successful into the future. A sustainable program that works for everyone."
It didn't take much to convince the board to approve continuing the online program with many speaking out and singing its praises.
Board vice-chair Shali Baziuk says she realizes the online option was in response to the pandemic but, from the feedback she's heard from her Chestermere constituents, they were pleased that they even had an online option.
"For quite a few people, with the upheaval over COVID, they wanted something else. They were a little nervous about in-person schooling and just to have this option at all, and when I think this option was created with not a lot of time, I can't even imagine what this new online option is going to look like and I'm pretty excited and I like that Rocky View offers parents this kind of choice."
Rocky View Schools will continue to seek parent, student and staff feedback to make the online component even better, set up necessary components with Alberta Education, define the structure of the online entity, adjust the enrollments and budgets reflecting student moves as well as a number of other things to get the program ready for the fall.