In September of 2022/2023, online students will be required to attend an online learning school (OL) within their district, unless they enrol in a Provincial Online Learning School (POLS) Enrolment for OL schools is slated for January/February 2022, but we are not expected to find out which of the 69 OL public and independent schools in B.C. will become POLS until July 2022.
For many families, this will be too late. We are fearful that the schools we enrol our children in will no longer exist, and there will not be any other option available.
OL schools have historically not been limited to a geographical border, like public campus school districts. They serve a wide range of students, such as students living in rural areas, Indigenous Peoples, children with diverse learning needs, and children with special education (SE) designations. Currently, the number of students enrolled in OL schools in BC outside of their district is 14, 000.
Bill 8 and its supporting policies that are expected to roll out in 2022/2023, will cause families like ours to sever relations with the staff and education systems that have become their home.
If the OL school we have enrolled our children in for the last five years is not selected to become a POLS, it will be forced to close. At our OL school, almost all (93% of students) are enrolled outside of its administrative site in Greater Victoria. Other OL schools like ours are in similar boats. They will be forced to close, many students will be displaced, and teachers will lose jobs.
Our family has three students, ages 6, 8, and 10. We have chosen home learning for the purpose of fostering healthy, respectful, and engaging relationships with our children.
We have seen them flourish in their OL school, as we have partnered with expert educators to facilitate their learning, and have been connected with comprehensive and robust community support co-ordinated by our OL school.
We have one child with special education needs, and another with learning challenges. Our children have built relationships across grade levels, with fellow students, families, and have made meaningful connections with staff. We as parents have volunteered our time and resources to facilitate the day to day juggling act required to get our children to their various community groups, therapy, skating, ballet, piano, soccer programs, and face to face classroom settings to ensure they are provided with expert-led, quality education, at a discounted cost to the ministry of education.
Considering the possibility that relationships between both students in our local and widespread OL communities in B.C. could be severed in 2022/2023, as part of an educational restructuring process to ensure equity to all students in B.C., is unfathomable. Crunching the numbers, that means at least 14, 000 students could be displaced.
In addition, it is well known that many students access OL schools because they were unable to find a good fit in the public brick-and-mortar schools.
Some experienced trauma, while others were excluded. Bill 8 and supporting policies will disproportionately affect many of these vulnerable students.
Sixty of these exclusion stories have been edited and compiled by Jenn Scharf, who shared that these stories were a collective to give voice to families across the province and that this compilation of stories has now been shared first with the Minister of Education, and with the Board of Trustees in our local SD48.
While covid-19 news about masks and vaccines make their way around on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis, maybe we can take some time to re-think this educational restructuring process, and leave alone what is actually working in the B.C. education system, while trying to repair the parts that are inadequate, so that all needs of students across B.C. can be met. B.C. online schools are doing an exceptional job meeting students’ needs and at a lower cost.
Let’s support their students and families moving forward in 2022/2023!
Anna Marie Rutishauser
**Please note, the photo with this letter was swapped out after it was first posted to replace a stock photo with one of the letter-writer's children.