Wednesday, 14 September 2011 15:57

PRSD looks at alternative education delivery models for rural students

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By Rose Sanchez — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prairie Rose School Division (PRSD) officials believe the time is right to consider alternative education options for rural students who face extremely long bus rides to and from school.

A meeting at the end of the month will involve division officials with expertise in transportation and technology, as well as trustees, teachers, students, parents and officials from Alberta Education to discuss remote rural learning opportunities.

“The idea of looking at alternative options for students in Prairie Rose has been around for several years,” says Superintendent Doug Nicholls.

In light of three school closures in the division within the last five years, budget challenges, and parental concerns about the length of bus rides in some areas, division officials feel it is time to get started on the process of talking to various stakeholders to discuss remote learning opportunities.

“The length of school day for some students is very challenging. We want to see if there are any other methods of delivery that would assist these students,” says Nicholls.

PRSD administrators contacted about parents who have children who ride the bus for at least 60 minutes, twice a day.

Once the feedback is gathered at the meeting, officials hope to have a better understanding of the learning styles of the students, what types of technology may be required and what the most cost-efficient delivery system may look like.

“We hope to come out with a better understanding of what people are thinking,” says Nicholls.

“This is not classrooms disappearing in Prairie Rose. This is a select model for students who live in specific geographical location.”

He adds there wouldn’t be a huge number of students making use of the opportunity.

The concept of adjusting education needs for rural students isn’t a new one in the province. Some schools have adjusted school years, such as four days a week, but longer days, while others have a winter bussing schedule.

Other options which will be explored include a traditional school year, but certain students stay home and connect to classrooms using technology such as video conferencing, or a handful of students in the same remote rural area meeting together in one place in their area to go over their studies.

Nicholls says the time is right to have a discussion about alternative delivery models in light of the declining rural population, increased bus ride lengths and the ever-changing face of technology available to students and staff.

“The time is right; we’ll see where it goes.”

If there is a positive response from the stakeholders to move forward, Nicholls is hopeful the timeline to implement a model will be shorter rather than longer.

“It’s fantastic for administration to get this group together. It’s definitely something that is needed,” said Trustee Graeme Dennis, at the Sept 13 regular board meeting, where Nicholls updated trustees.

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