ADLC’s Student Instruction (SI) and Teacher Support (TS) services will continue to be provided to Alberta schools in 2020-2021. Thereafter, distance education services will shift to online schools operated by school jurisdictions. Pembina Hills School Division will restructure its Vista Virtual School to support students enrolled in our schools and we invite partnerships with Alberta school divisions to efficiently support your students as well. We are confident that our experience and existing infrastructure can continue to fill the needs presented by students in rural, urban, small and large schools.
On February 27, ADLC was informed by Deputy Minister Andre Corbould that the service agreement with Alberta Education will be renewed for two more school years; 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Next year’s funding will be $14 million, and in the year following, it will be $7 million.
Service Agreement will be Terminated after 2021-2022 School Year
In an effort to understand the decision and to ensure that the Ministry had all relevant information, the Pembina Hills board and system administration engaged in a dialogue with the Minister, her staff and with the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) Board of Directors. Despite ADLC’s presence in the majority of schools across the province, the recommendation from CASS is to support the government’s decision to terminate ADLC’s Service Agreement. Pembina Hills will therefore plan to terminate the Service Agreement as per the timeline set by the Minister.
Distance Education Services Fill Programming Gaps
At this time of year, schools are preparing programs and schedules for the next school year. Principals are sometimes challenged to meet the demands of their students. For example, when timetables have competing singleton courses, when programming is not available at the school, (like Spanish or Forensics), when programming for low enrollments in a particular course (like Physics 30 or Math 31), and when students need to or want to repeat courses. Principals sometimes need to assign teachers to subjects that may be outside their expertise or to classes with multiple grades or courses. We know that many schools have relied on ADLC to fill these programming gaps for many years. ADLC will continue to fill those gaps in 2020-2021, but due to reduced funding, available spaces for student instruction will be capped. Based on existing demand, we anticipate reaching capacity early in the school year.
New Funding Framework for Online Programs
Like in many other divisions, schools in Pembina Hills rely on distance education services to fill the gaps described above. Alberta Education’s new funding model provides guidelines for divisions who choose to maintain or develop online programs. These guidelines place limits on funding for non-primary students (students whose primary registration is with a traditional community school in any given school division). While Pembina Hills has administered ADLC for the province since 1997, we have also maintained a separate distance education school; Vista Virtual School (VVS).
Pembina Hills has operated Vista Virtual School since 1996, prior to divestiture of ADLC to Pembina Hills. Vista Virtual School has evolved to have the highest enrollment of any distance education school in Alberta. With decades of distance education experience, VVS staff and administration are well positioned to support students.
Partnering to Provide Distance Education
As part of the discussion about ADLC’s termination, CASS queried Alberta School superintendents about ADLC. While the majority of the responses supported the decision to terminate ADLC’s service agreement, 7 of the 67 respondents expressed their support for continuity of distance education services through ADLC, based on their reliance on services provided to their students and schools. Some of these have subsequently reached out to Pembina Hills seeking possible collaborative partnerships going forward. It is evident that the 10,000+ students currently served by ADLC and the 10,000+ students enrolled with Vista Virtual School will continue to require some form of distance education.
We are inviting partnerships with any other Alberta school authority to work with us as we transition to a different way of supporting students and schools with distance education services. If this is something you wish to investigate, please have your division administration reach out directly to superintendent David Garbutt at email@example.com.