It was roughly a month ago the Pembina Hills School Division was first informed that within two years the province intended to conclude the service agreement it had with the division to operate the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC).
What’s more, it was the Alberta government’s intention to halve the funding it provided Pembina Hills to operate the ADLC after one year.
This news came as a blow to Pembina Hills and its partners. There are 142 school authorities and more than 900 schools throughout Alberta that utilize the services provided by the ADLC.
In a survey conducted by Pembina Hills among distance education facilitators at various schools, nearly half of them said the services provided by the ADLC are crucial to their school’s own programming.
What’s more, the ADLC is a major employer in the Barrhead area with a total of 121 staff, including 84 teachers and 34 support staff working in a variety of departments. Only 26 of those employees work remotely — the rest are here in the community..
It would be fair to say that in normal circumstances, the loss of the ADLC would be a pretty heavy blow to Alberta’s education system and to the community of Barrhead.
But we’re not living in normal times, as anyone reading this newspaper well knows. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a shutdown of schools throughout the province, forcing teachers to provide instruction to their students remotely.
And as we can now see, many of those educators have reached out to the ADLC to help bridge that gap. The number of teachers who signed up to use the ADLC’s online resources skyrocketed in the last two weeks of March.
We would venture a guess that registrations would be even higher if educators across the province had a better idea of the variety of services provided by the ADLC, and at no cost.
It’s still not clear what originally inspired the Alberta government’s decision. There’s been some contention that it was based on some inaccurate information around course completion rates, as well as the testimony of a few individuals who dismissed the ADLC as unnecessary.
Well, that’s clearly not the case any longer. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how absolutely essential the continued operation of the ADLC is during an emergency. It’s time for the province to reverse this decision.