The number of public school students learning from home is on the rise in Kootenay Lake School District.
As of September 30, when the school district submitted enrolment numbers to the province, there were 400 full-time equivalent students signed up for Homelinks or distance education programs. That’s about 219 more students than were taking those programs last year.
Meanwhile, district-wide enrolment for traditional classrooms learning decreased by 166 students.
But because of new interest in the home-based programs, the school district actually recorded a 53-student increase in enrolment overall. As a result, there are five more teaching positions in the district this year compared to last.
School district superintendent Jeff Jones said the increases in both student and teacher numbers came as a pleasant surprise, given that last April the district was preparing to lay off 36 teachers.
“When we did our spring projections, we anticipated needing less teachers than we actually do because we anticipated we would have less students,” Jones explained, noting that only two of the teachers that received layoff notices remain on the recall list waiting for a new job opportunity.
He said the shift to home-based learning is a sign of generational change. Many high school students, for example, want to take their courses online through the Distance Education School of the Kootenays, rather than be tied to a classroom schedule.
At the same time, parents who homeschool their children are taking advantage of the Homelinks program to have a certified teacher work with them to plan curriculum and provide academic support and learning assessments for the students.
“We’ve been working very hard at the school district level to expand the array of learning opportunities for our students, to combine face-to-face learning environments with other more independent learning opportunities, ” Jones said.
“The message we’re getting from the enrolment numbers is that people are looking for more flexibility in their access to learning. We’re fortunate to have strong teaching and support staff in the district to make that possible.”