Gail Tremeer, president of the Fraser Valley Distance Education School’s Parent Advisory Council, is letting parents know that changes are on the horizon for the distance learning program. She just isn’t sure what they are yet. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Distance education in danger in Chilliwack, says parent group

District staff to address parent concerns at public meeting next week

There are a few things parents of kids in Fraser Valley Distance Education should know this week.

The first, is that they have a parent advisory council who is eager to connect with them.

The second, is that big changes are potentially coming to how — maybe even if — distance education is offered to all grades through School District 33 in the future.

Gail Tremeer, president of the FVDES’s PAC, said she only just found out recently that the distributed learning centre is in line for changes. And when she’s asked the district for clarification, she’s not gotten any clear answers. But she did get a promise of a parent information meeting, and that meeting is set for Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. at the Distance Education office.

But she can’t possibly get a hold of all the parents involved in FVDES; it’s not as if students are corralled in one classroom for a newsletter drop off. Some may not ever come to the school’s office, at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre. Others may have missed emails sent out.

Tremeer wants to make sure everyone is aware of impending changes, so they have a chance to ask questions and be a part of the process. Because decisions are being made soon, she said.

“As a PAC, we’re frustrated,” she said. Distributed learning models are at risk across the province because funding models have changed in recent years. When FVDES was created in 1990, it was one of nine in the province. Now there are more than 60, and local registrations are dropping. Because the government pays per full time enrolment (eight courses at once), it’s just not economically feasible to run.

“That’s how it survived before,” Tremeer says. “It survived as a business. But it’s not sustainable in the current model.”

She has heard rumours of losing Kindergarten to Grade 9 distributed learning altogether in this district, but has no confirmation. Many of those students have special needs, and it will mean a huge loss in services for the families at FVDES, Tremeer says.

“I would say FVDES runs a superb program for kids with special needs, and just picking up a distributed learning course from another learning centre is not that easy,” she says.

The PAC has sent their concerns to the school board, the district and the District PAC, and have heard back from the assistant superintendent, and DPAC president, Justine Hodge.

Anyone who like more on the FVDES PAC can email fvdespacpresident@gmail.com or join their Facebook page.