Sask. developing online learning Crown corporation

The Government of Saskatchewan will have a new Crown corporation to oversee online education.

The Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation (DLC) will be a central hub for online learning in the province.

The province will be acquiring Sun West School Divisions Distance Learning Centre.

“The DLC is a well established operation with skilled staff, robust technology, and a wealth of courses to provide a ready made foundation of 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.”

However, not everyone is on board.

Kate Methot has two daughters who attend Flex Education, a private institution based in Saskatoon.

Methot said her family feels like the government is taking away another choice.

“It feels like they’re trying to remove our freedom to choose what is best for our families and for our children,” Methot explained. “It feels like another attack by the government on us as families and as parents and as individuals.”

With the new corporation, Flex Education may soon be unavailable to students.

All Saskatchewan students will have access to the DLC.

Independent schools may still be allowed to offer programs, but institutions like Flex Education say there has been no communication.

“We have been waiting for assurance and we have not received that yet,” said Ann Cook, principal of Flex Education. “The other reason we are disappointed is that we have 17 years of proven success in online education and we have been ignored by the government.”

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) has expressed concerns over the new Crown corporation.

“It seems the government is proceeding blindly, the announcement and aggressive timelines of this project suggest a lack of awareness of the current state of public education in Saskatchewan,” President of the STF Samantha Becotte said in a press release.

“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.”

STF said recent cuts to education, combined with years of underfunding have created a situation where students are not receiving enough one-on-one education.

“Another layer of complexity to a system that is already underfunded, we need a good investment into public education and we need to make sure that all of our students’ needs are addressed,” Becotte said.

DLC’s platform currently offers more than 180 courses for kindergarten to Grade 12. Students will also have access to driver’s training, graduation ceremonies and extracurricular activities.

Darren Gasper from the Sun West School Division oversees the work to determine the operating structure.

He said communication with school boards has been consistent.

“Really good discussions with each of the school divisions that are involved in this and we’ve spent some really quality meeting time with each of them learning about their programs, learning about the great work and services that they provide to students in their local area ,” Gasper said.

Cook believes the Crown will take away a critical choice for parents, one that could have an impact on children.

“It is going to basically leave students behind, and families and parents will no longer have a choice in online learning and how it is delivered to them,” Cook said.

The head office will be located in Kenaston, Sask. with additional locations throughout the province.

The Ministry of Education said they would continue to consult with stakeholders, teachers, and the STF.

Student registration is set to open in the coming months.