On April 1, the Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees carried a motion to direct the superintendent to continue offering a grade one to 12 online learning option for RVS students.
“In the early 2000s, Rocky View had Rocky View virtual school online programming, we were certainly at the cutting edge,” said RVS Superintendent, Greg Luterbach.
In the past, the online learning options morphed into a high school program. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, RVS increased the program from a couple hundred students to 3,000 students.
“We staffed that, we made that happen in a matter of weeks, and then we did it all again in February when families chose if they wanted to go back to face-to-face learning or online,” Luterbach said.
“We didn’t get very far into it, and staff and families were asking if it would continue beyond this year. We’ve been listening to that, I know trustees have been engaged in conversations throughout that, and from an administrative point of view we are keen to continue the program into next year and beyond,” he said.
Luterbach believes that the online learning option meets a need for students and their families.
“We have an amazing staff that can support students in an online format, and we believe the online program from grades one to 12 should continue next year, and go from there,” Luterbach said.
Going forward, RVS is now looking at how the online learning will look next year, with the focus being around RVS students.
“We want to make this go on and be successful into the future and make this a sustainable program that works for everyone. We will want to grow this program strategically, and our focus in the first year will be on RVS students,” Luterbach said.
RVS has received funding for students, whether they are learning online, or doing in-person learning.
“We’re trying to build a budget, but we have no idea how many families would say yes to this offering. We told schools to build their budget assuming their students are in-person, then we will need to make more changes when we see how many end up raising their hands to move online,” Luterbach added. “There are going to be a lot of logistical challenges on the funding side to go.”
Ward One RVS Board Trustee Shali Baziuk was in full support of the motion, as it offers families an alternative to in-person learning.
“I realize this online option was a response to the pandemic, but I have to say it was incredibly well done, and I’ve heard a lot of really positive remarks from parents that they had an alternative, because for quite a few people they were nervous about in-person schooling,” Baziuk said.
Adding, “To think this was an option that was created with not a lot of time, I can’t imagine what this new online offering is going to look like. I’m excited that RVS offers this kind of choice.”
Ward Five RVS Board Trustee, Judi Hunter wanted to applaud the administration for the work already done, and the work being done to ensure the online learning program is the best it can be.
“You can see the pandemic has changed a number of things, and the trend into the future will be an online option, I know the kind of innovation that RVS has a history of, so I’m excited about this,” Hunter said.
The RVS Board Chair, Fiona Gilbert added that it was great to hear about the work being done to grow the online learning program intentionally.
“It was a response to a pandemic, a year and a bit ago, it was a quick response, then we did a little bit more work to have a more robust response come September of last year,” Gilbert said.
“I’m glad to see we’re looking at it, reaching out to parents, and reaching out to staff to see what’s working, what’s not working, and how can we make this best for students,” she said.