Teachers, staff, and students alike breathed a collective sigh of relief as the South Central Interior Distance Education School (SCIDES) was selected to be one of only 17 provincially designated online learning schools. 

After receiving news of the announcement through a meeting, district staff say they can confirm that SCIDES will be a part of the province’s new initiative to make online learning more accessible and feasible for students, including nixing out of district enrolments for all except a few schools, SCIDES being a notable exception.

“After a meeting this week, we learned that we are one of the schools that has been selected to move forward,” said Jameel Aziz, assistant superintendent of School District 58. 

“We will be signing contracts with the Ministry next year, but SCIDES will continue to operate under the new umbrella of a provincial online service provider.”

SCIDES has operated in the Nicola Valley for decades, becoming one of the province’s first correspondence schools, which offered lessons and teaching via mail and other mediums. Now able to continue their work, SCIDES will be one of only 17 schools able to offer students programming regardless of their location in the province. 

The changes to BC’s online learning model don’t stop there, with a change in online learning platform, from ‘Moodle’ to ‘Brightspace,’ also requiring some additional logistic considerations. The province is hoping their slew of changes will create a more accessible and personal learning environment, allowing for the building of relationships and connections with educators. With roughly 85,000 students enrolled across the province’s estimated 70 online learning schools, the new changes will see many students needing to enroll at new provincially designated schools.

“I think certainly Karen Goetz, the principal, and her staff were obviously quite overjoyed. They take their work very seriously and take a lot of pride in the quality of the programming they deliver. To know that they can continue, and perhaps even have the opportunity to grow, I think was very well received.”

While the changes aren’t slated to take effect until the 2023 to 2024 school year, the logistics of moving students to new schools across the province could prove difficult for many. Luckily, that won’t be a concern for SCIDES students, who will see their educational journey far less changed than some of their fellow pupils.

Online learning has become a feasible option for many students in BC and across the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered in-person educational efforts across the board. Aziz says that online learning is not only a good option for many students, but also adds that the success rate post-graduation is comparable to in-person schools.

“Some of the online students really are as accomplished and amazing as many of our brick and mortar students and really go on to do some amazing things in terms of leadership and careers,” said Aziz.

“Certainly within the district it’s helpful, but it’s really across the province as well. It gives kids flexibility. We have families during the pandemic who chose to complete or do part of their education online. Sometimes students or families’ social and religious beliefs just make it a better fit to do an online program.”

Moving forward, the school district and SCIDES will sign operating agreements with the Ministry of Education, and begin the process of aligning with BC’s new online learning system. Historically, SCIDES has had no issues complying with the Ministry’s guidelines, earning a strong pass during a recent audit. 

“We had an audit under the Ministry two or three years ago, and basically passed with flying colours. In terms of quality of program delivery, SCIDES does an amazing job,” added Aziz.

To learn more about the changes to BC’s online learning system, and about provincially designated online learning schools, visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/k-12/support/classroom-alternatives/online-learning/model.