The CEO of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre says his organization intends to focus on supporting homebound Grade 12 students as class cancellations designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continue.
Through a service agreement with Alberta Education and Pembina Hills School Division, the ADLC has provided free distance learning services to students and teachers since 1997.
The Barrhead-based service helps students who cannot attend school in person as well as students interested in courses not offered by their own schools.
The ADLC has served waves of students in times of crisis before, including during the 2013 flooding in High River and the 2016 wildfire evacuation in Fort McMurray.
David Garbutt, superintendent of schools for Pembina Hills School Division and CEO of ADLC, said the organization is committed to working closely with Alberta Education and other school districts to make sure students can keep learning.
“We’re going to spend this week, and over spring break, in meetings with the other school jurisdictions and Alberta Education to try to come up with a consistent plan across the province,” he said Monday in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.
The ADLC has resources for more than 300 courses, 200 of which are available online.
“We have all the materials ready to roll,” Garbutt said.
Future of distance learning in question
The ADLC’s plan to increase the number of students and teachers it supports comes just weeks after the organization learned it will be defunded over the next two years.
As part of its recent budget, the provincial government announced the centre’s funding will drop from more than $18 million this school year to $14 million next year, then $7 million in its final year of operation.
At the time, Alberta Education spokesperson Colin Aitchison said the changes would provide equal funding to all Alberta distance learning providers.
“If the service agreement concludes I’m not sure who’s going to provide the service,” Garbutt told CBC News.
Garbutt said there are approximately 30 other online schools in the province, but they lack the ADLC’s breadth and depth of course resources.