The Government of Saskatchewan announced on Wednesday that it has established a new treasury board crown corporation to oversee centralized online education in the province through a planned acquisition of Sun West School Division’s Distance Learning Centre (DLC).
The DLC will be called the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation. It will operate as the head office and main hub for online education in the province.
“The DLC is a well-established operation with skilled staff, robust technology, and a wealth of courses to provide a ready-made foundation for the centralized model,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a press release.
“This acquisition ensures that all students will have access to high quality online education regardless of where they are living in the province.”
DLC’s platform currently offers more than 180 online courses for Kindergarten to Grade 12, including more than 70 high school electives and has ready to use educational resources for students and teachers including instructional videos and lesson plans.
Students attending the new online school will continue to have access to their local school division for driver’s licence training, graduation ceremonies and extracurricular activities.
All Saskatchewan students will have access to the DLC and as with in-classroom education, it will be free. Most students enrolled are expected to be from public school divisions but separate school divisions, the Conseil des Écoles fransaskoises and qualified independent schools may continue to be able to offer online learning via an application process to the Ministry of Education.
Darren Gasper has been selected from Sun West School Division to oversee the work to determine the new provincial online learning school’s operating structure. Gasper is employed as a Superintendent at Sun West School Division and has more than 22 years of experience in the education sector, including providing leadership to the Sun West DLC for the last nine years.
The main office for the provincial online school will be located in Kenaston with additional satellite locations to be created throughout the province. Teachers, regardless of where they live, will have employment opportunities to work for the online school in the coming months. Student registration is also anticipated to open in the coming months.
Information on the new online school can be found at: www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/education-and-learning/prek-12-education-early-learning-and-schools/online-learning.
STF expressed frustration with speed of DLC and lack of consultation
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation expressed their frustration and growing concern as the Government of Saskatchewan pushes ahead with plans to develop a new Distance Learning Crown Corporation without meaningful consultation.
“It seems government is proceeding blindly,” STF president Samantha Becotte said Wednesday in a media release. “The announcement and aggressive timelines of this project suggests a lack of awareness of the current state of public education in Saskatchewan. I hear the word “triage” regularly from teachers. It’s clear to me kids aren’t getting the help they need. There are very real and urgent issues that need to be addressed now.”
The STF explained that a month ago, the Federation and sector partners raised concerns about the process and requested an opportunity to provide input on a number of important issues.
The partners, including the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, the League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents, and the Saskatchewan Association of School Business Officials, still have not received a response.
Becotte says the approach this government is taking raises doubts about their intent and objectives.
“I don’t understand why the Minister is disregarding our advice on such an extremely complicated and important issue. What’s the rush? And further, why is he hiring an out-of-province consultant with a passion for privatization rather than working with the education partners here who know our Saskatchewan communities?”
Becotte said recent cuts to education, combined with years of chronic underfunding, have created a situation where students are not receiving enough one-on-one time with their teachers. They also no longer have support from an educational assistant or access to other professionals who support learning. In addition, Becotte argued that a Distance Learning Crown Corporation will direct funds away from local supports.
“First and foremost, teachers and parents want students across the province to succeed,” Becotte said.
“This is a large and complicated project that is being rushed. If it fails, students are the ones who will hurt. The government’s track record is poor when comes to introducing centralized IT systems. Look no further than the losses experienced with the SHA and eHealth.”
By Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Dec 08, 2022 at 17:28