LAKELAND — Lakeland students opting to learn online this year will have their very own set of virtual teachers and support staff as school districts across the region create and grow virtual classrooms and distance learning programs.
Lakeland Catholic School Division (LCSD), St. Paul Education and Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) have each developed their own online school that will mix students from across the region in virtual classes from kindergarten to Grade 12.
At-home learning offered through LCSD will fall under Lakeland Catholic Online Learning (LCOL) and for students attending class virtually through Northern Lights, they will be registered through the Learning Together Anywhere School (LTA) program.
St. Paul Education will continue to offer at-home learning options where students from Racette Jr. High, St. Paul Elementary, Glen Avon, Mallaig, Elk Point Elementary, and FG Miller will receive programming from a centralized group of teachers.
Students attending Ashmont School, New Myrnam, St. Paul Alternate Education Centre, Regional High School, Heinsburg, Two Hills, and Two Hills Mennonite schools will receive online programming directly from their home institution.
As of last week, less than one per cent of students had signed up for online learning, according to St. Paul Education Superintendent Glen Brodziak.
“Given that schools are doing registrations this week that number may change. The deadline to register for at-home learning has passed (Aug. 24), but we have committed to look at individual requests and make decisions as necessary,” said Brodziak, last week.
LCSD welcomes new Vice-Principal of Online Learning
Filling a new role as the Vice-Principal of Online Learning, Jeffery Cey says he is ready to serve students across Lakeland Catholic schools.
Cey will maintain his positions as vice-principal of École Notre Dame High School (NDHS) and coach for NDHS and École Dr. Bernard Brosseau School’s hockey program, but he will give up teaching part-time to take on his new role for online learning.
“It's a little bit bittersweet,” Cey told Lakeland This Week. “I really love the in-class experience with the students teaching Social Studies for the last 21 years, but I'm excited to take this new challenge on. It's exciting to broaden my horizons and to offer something new and advanced to the students that are looking for an avenue that they feel is best suited to their learning needs.”
Cey says the district’s online learning programming last year developed very quickly after the pandemic spurred the transition of the majority of students requiring some educational instruction online.
"It's very cool that this virtual environment allows those teachers to reach such a broad range of students and communities through their virtual platform,” said Cey, adding, he is excited at the opportunity to lead a group of teachers willing to take on this 21st Century form of teaching and learning.
There will be learning curves that come with the new program, he says, but the ultimate goal is to see the students succeed in this alternative learning environment.
Managing students that want to shift between online and in-person learning is one area that Cey foresees a lot of energy being spent heading into the school year.
“Working with principals, and working with parents and students to facilitate those movements and those requests is going to be a big part of my job for sure, but we'll take it one semester at a time, one year at a time."
As long as there is a demand for this new format of learning, Cey sees it continuing, especially considering the closing of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADCL).
“This could be a new normal. Just as there was a lot of demand for Alberta distance learning in the past, where students were learning from home prior to COVID coming along, there's likely going to be a demand for students in a variety of situations to be learning from home as well.”
NLPS welcomes new Principal of Learning Together Anywhere
Brandon Isert, the former vice-principal and team member that developed and implemented the LTA program, will take over the role of principal for the upcoming academic year.
The LTA program, which was created to provide NLPS students the ability to learn from home during the pandemic, has been converted into its own school as interest in the program grows. The LTA School is also accepting students from across the province.
“I am excited about the possibilities that an online school can bring to our Northern Lights Public Schools families and that it is another positive step towards our mission to help every student learn and excel across the Lakeland,” said Isert.
*With file from Janice Huser