Students in the Fraser Cascade School District's transition program have now largely moved to online learning. (Unsplash)

SD78: Nearly 300 students to finish school year online

The school district ended its transition program and switched to in-class or online only

Many families who opted for a gradual transition to the classroom in September will continue to learn from home for the remainder of the school year, according to numbers from SD78.

In November, the Fraser Cascade School District phased out its transition program, which saw nearly 240 students learning from home with the goal of returning to the classroom for 2021.

“We realized we’re in the middle of a pandemic and we needed to be flexible, superintendent Balan Moorthy said about the reason behind the transition program. “But, the transition program was always about the kids transitioning back to classroom instruction, and it was never meant to be all year.”

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In September, students were given the option to return to classroom instruction, do online schooling, or participate in the transition program. At that time, two teachers were facilitating the online program, and five positions were created to support the transition program.

The vast majority of the district’s students were back in classrooms using the cohort model at the start of the year, with around 30 choosing to learn strictly online. (Although there were only 1,638.25 full time equivalent students in the district at the start of the year, that number has now increased to approximately 1,680.75 FTE students.)

In November, 237 students were in the transition program, which aimed to bring them back to the classroom by 2021.

Kent Elementary had the highest number of students in the transition program (67), although Coquihalla Elementary also had a significant number (45). Hope Secondary School and Agassiz Elementary Secondary School had 41 students in the transition program each, and Silver Creek Elementary had 27. Boston Bar Elementary and Harrison Hot Springs Elementary, both small schools, had seven and nine students in the program respectively.

Since the transition program ended, most of these students opted to stay learning online. There are now 284 students in the district that are learning from home.

SEE ALSO: SD78 $2.1M over budget due to COVID-19 costs

In response, the district has moved more of its teachers to be online-only, focusing on those 284 students who are staying home. In addition to the existing online teachers, the district has also moved its transition teachers to the online program. Some schools have also restructured their programs to facilitate more online learning, Moorthy said.

“We have learned that by increasing the number of adults for the number of children that are on online, is we’re getting more success and more engagement,” Moorthy said to the SD78 school board during its Dec. 19 meeting. “We are starting to reengage some of our students in our indigenous communities where they’ve had some pretty strong closures.”

Students in grades 4 through 12 are using the Western Canadian Learning Network (WCLN), a distance-learning platform used by most school districts across the province. Online teachers for those grades work directly with a group of 25-30 students, tracking them through WCLN and connecting with them through Zoom.

Online students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 do not use WCLN, but instead are given packages by their teachers to complete.

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