A couple of weeks ago we posted News Release – Government Of Saskatchewan Centralizing Online Learning For The 2023-24 School Year and predicted that the “announcement will cause the same kinds of questions, concerns, and even wild accusations.” The first round of questions came from the folks in the Prairie South School Division and Holy Trinity Catholic School Division. Over the weekend CTV News posted an article entitled ‘A deal breaker’: Sask. virtual school opposes government mandate to centralize remote learning.
A remote learning program in Saskatchewan has expressed worries following an announcement by the provincial government which will see online learning centralized.
Flex Ed is the pioneer of online learning in Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon based virtual school has been delivering K-12 classes into the homes of students for 17 years.
Now, the Government of Saskatchewan is setting up a crown corporation to deliver online learning for the next school year.
It is asking Flex Ed to apply for approval to take part and to meet unspecified requirements. A process that was described as a deal-breaker by Flex Ed principal Ann Cook.
“We’d have to move to a centralized platform that they would choose which is a deal breaker for us because we have spent 17 years integrating all of our content,” Cook said.
The government wants to centralize 33 online programs operated by public school divisions in the province. Catholic Schools are exempted.
The goal is to bring 4,000 students onto one platform.
“Whether it’s the new centralized model in the public system or any of our other school divisions, the Catholic or the French or the qualified independent,” Minister of Education Dustin Duncan explained.
“We do have a quality assurance framework.”
The 500 students attending the Flex Ed program meet government academic requirements with tuition paid by the province.
One parent, whose son has cancer, is worried about losing the flexibility offered by Flex Ed.
“He doesn’t necessarily feel well enough to do his schoolwork each and every day, but there are some days where he feels really great and he can zoom through a whole pile of school work in a day,” Carmen Herzog explained.
“So, to have that freedom of time and that flexibility, it’s just huge to us.”
Minister Duncan expressed he doesn’t believe the Flex Ed program will be impacted.
However, he did admit there are still many questions to be answered about the government’s new online education framework.
First, let’s point out the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, and – soon to be – British Columbia all utilized centralized learning management systems. But hey, if a program wants to waste the money maintaining their own subscription to a learning management system because they can’t be bothered to convert their courses to the new system, it is public money after all.
The article does suggest that “The government wants to centralize 33 online programs operated by public school divisions in the province. Catholic Schools are exempted.” This is information that isn’t contained in the original report – as was also one of the questions that was raised in the previous article.
The only new question that is raised in this article is whether the centralized model will be able to accommodate more flexible models of distance learning. And the Minister responsible seem to suggest that it would (or at least this particular program wouldn’t be impacted.
So if we add this to our running list of questions from the original announcement:
- Will all online programming have to go through the centralized hub or will divisions be able to maintain their own online programming?
- How can divisions that have existing online programming become involved in centralized online learning?
- How will centralized online learning accommodate the rights of religious schools?
Note that this news article suggests that Catholic schools were exempt.
- Will all divisions HAVE to use the centralized learning management system?
- Will the centralized online learning model be able to accommodate more flexible models of distance learning?
Note that this news article suggests that it will be able to or that FlexEd would somehow not be impacted.