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CASS support for reduced funding likely signals the end of ADLC

opinion editorial stock

On May 15, an update was posted to the Alberta Distance Learning Centre’s (ADLC) website that signaled the end of the distance education provider.

The update stated that student instruction and teacher support services would continue for the 2020-2021 school year, but after that, distance education services would shift to become the responsibility of online schools operated by individual school divisions.

In an interview with Pembina Hills Supt. David Garbutt last week, he was basically resigned to the fact that ADLC wouldn’t be operating in two years.

As the song goes, it’s all over but the crying.

Back in March, Pembina Hills learned (via a provincial funding announcement, incidentally) that the service agreement between the province and the division to operate the ADLC would be coming to an end in two years.

Furthermore, the funding provided by the province to actually operate the ADLC would be reduced to $14 million in 2020-2021 and $7 million in 2021-2022. Essentially, Pembina Hills was getting just enough money to close up shop.

There was a glimmer of hope that Pembina Hills might be able to convince the province to reverse its decision. They pleaded with Alberta Education, reached out to their partners and even demonstrated how usage of the ADLC’s services had increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the province argued that times had changed and many other school divisions were operating their own distance education programs. Also, they were hearing from superintendents that the ADLC was an unnecessary service.

The final nail in the coffin was a motion made by the board of directors of the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) on May 8 that the province should stick to its guns on the new funding model.

This motion was based on the input of less than a third of all the superintendents in the province — the majority of CASS’ membership apparently didn’t care one way or another. Also, the total number of respondents was only a tenth of those who responded to Pembina Hills’ own survey on the subject.

Nevertheless, for a provincial government that is desperate to cut public services wherever it can, CASS’ support for the closure of the ADLC might as well be a commandment from God himself.

This is bad news for the 124 staff employed at the ADLC, some of whom re-located to Barrhead from urban centres when services were centralized in the community over the last year. (This was also done at the request of the province.)

It’s bad news for the smaller school authorities who indicated they absolutely relied on the services provided by the ADLC to compliment their programming.

And finally, it’s bad news for the community of Barrhead. There’s no way that this won’t mean fewer people living and working in this town, even if some of them stay with Pembina Hills.

It’s hard not to feel disappointed and even a little betrayed.
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