The Abbotsford board of education voted unanimously (7-0) on Tuesday (Dec. 8) to approve the school district’s expression of interest in becoming a provincial online school (POLS).
The Ministry of Education is shifting its online learning structure to a centralized model of online course delivery and asked for expressions of interest from districts.
The Abbotsford school district says the positives of becoming a POLS include an increase in revenue of about $500,000 due to enrolment of out-of-district students in online courses, an increase in the district’s ability to offer Abbotsford students a variety of online courses, and a higher potential to support international students coming to the district.
It will also allow the district to continue its existing contract with BC Corrections Services, the district says.
The district says some of the downsides include the potential increased costs in upgrading current student authentication structures in programs such as Office 365 (Abbotsford currently uses Google) and a strain on the administration’s ability to provide service to Abbotsford secondary and middle schools.
It was suggested in the board meeting that Abbotsford Virtual School (AVS) could work more within the plan to provide help if Abbotsford becomes a POLS site.
“We think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages,” said Kevin Godden, superintendent for the Abbotsford School District.
Godden said he doesn’t want to hinder the growth or development of AVS and other local students just to provide services to students outside Abbotsford. He stated that he believes a move like this is long overdue for Abbotsford and that he thinks the infrastructure is in place locally.
Godden said he doesn’t believe any other Fraser Valley school district will be expressing interest in becoming a POLS, and will also offer the ability to hire more staff.
He pointed out that one of the advantages of being a POLS is that other teachers in the district could use modules created for online courses in their own local classes.
The cost will be $10 per student. There will be no teacher cost unless the district signs up to use the professional development aspect of the system. There will be an additional charge for professional development and that cost is unknown.
This is the first step in the process, with the MOE making further decisions in the coming months.