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Ministry announces changes to School Act

Changes to the School Act announced today include opening up a mix online and in-class learning to the younger grades and eliminating a rigid school calendar.

Proposals for amendments to the Bill 36 School Act were laid out in a Ministry of Education press release this afternoon. Some of the changes include offering a mix of online and classroom learning for Kindergarten to Grade 9 students; eliminating the traditional school calendar to allow boards to switch to alternative calendars; and allowing boards to charge additional fees for international baccalaureate programs if they exceed the cost of regular education programs.

"Enabling greater flexibility and choice is a key component of BC's Education Plan, and these amendments to the School Act will provide school districts with additional tools to support personalized learning," reads a quote from Minister George Abbott.

* Some online learning could happen at school. But students without computers at home could face difficulties in accessing online learning. Especially since the Industry Canada recently cut it's Community Access Programs, which provided free-to-low cost internet in libraries and community centres across the country.

The Gulf Island School District and Kanaka Creek Elementary already operate on calendars outside of the traditional September to June model. The Vancouver School district is currently considering a change to a more balanced school year.

Studies have shown shorter, more frequent vacations from school benefit at-risk children who might forget school lessons over the two-and-a-half month summer. But others, including the BC Teachers' Federation, say there isn't enough evidence to say all schools should run on a balanced calendar.

Surrey School Board Chair Laurae McNally, who oversees the fastest growing district in the province, welcomes the changes to the Act.

"These changes provide greater autonomy, flexibility and recognize school boards as partners in education," reads McNally's statement in the ministry's release.

"Every school district has unique needs and challenges, and these amendments mean we'll be able to provide greater flexibility and choice - and that means more options for students."

The Tyee contacted the BCTF for comment. Stay tuned for their response and more updates.

* The Tyee originally reported, as stated in the Ministry release, that online learning was previously available only for Grades 10 to 12. This is incorrect; it was available for K-12.

Katie Hyslop reports on youth issues and education for The Tyee Solutions Society.

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