If only Alberta had an institution that could support students forced to learn at home – as it did until 2020

With this pandemic disrupting education in Alberta, if only we had had an institution that could have supported students forced to learn at home, helped their parents, and provided province-wide digital educational resources!

We did, of course.

Before its closure by the United Conservative Party, it was known as the Alberta Distance Learning Center.

The UCP closed the ADLC in 2020, just as COVID-19 was recognized as a global pandemic.

Adriana LaGrange, then and present Minister of Education, pulled the plug.

The Alberta Teachers Association protested the move. ATA President Jason Schilling and other education advocates said it was a big mistake. They were ignored.

A few people remembered the ADLC on social media this week after LaGrange announced the creation of an “online tutoring hub” during its school reopening press conference on Wednesday.

This “new tool to address learning disruptions” will provide “free online tutoring resources” to Grades 4-9 students and their parents to help them “catch up on important skills and learn that students may have fallen behind due to the pandemic, ”the government statement promised.

“The e-Tutoring Hub will launch with pre-recorded video tutoring sessions that students and their parents can access at any time to develop their reading and numeracy skills,” the press release said. “Later this year, Alberta Education will expand online tutoring services to cover more levels and subjects, including live tutoring. Feedback from school authorities, parents and students will inform the topics and needs for the new tutoring sessions.

It could also provide the government with a way to pilot its unpopular and controversial K-12 curriculum if school boards continue to refuse to cooperate, suspicious online commentators have suggested grimly.

Regardless of that possibility, it would be about reinventing the wheel – arguably wrong – to replace something the UCP killed less than two years ago. No estimate was provided for what this might cost.

The ADLC had a rich history, much like the discreet way of public institutions in Western Canada.

It was founded in 1921 to keep a promise made by the United Farmers of Alberta to overcome barriers to education in rural and remote areas. Indeed, it must be said, the UFA and other Canadian governments of that time all understood that public education was a huge international competitive advantage and a way to build a better and healthier world.

Originally it was called the Alberta Correspondence School Branch, in the picturesque days when governments believed their departments should have names that explained in plain language what they were doing, which in this case was to provide correspondence education for children in remote areas.

During World War II, with so many Patriotic teachers serving in the military that there was a teacher shortage, Prime Minister William Aberhart’s social credit government let the branch embrace radio teaching. Soon, courses were broadcast on CKUA, the Government of Alberta’s public broadcaster, which was part of the University of Alberta to bypass the fact that broadcasting was under federal jurisdiction.

In the 1970s, the lessons were televised on the province’s public educational cable television channel.

In 1980, less than a year after hog master Ken Kowalski was elected MP for Barrhead, the government moved the Edmonton branch to this rural community. But he continued to do important work, over time increasing the focus on services for vulnerable students and adults hoping to complete high school.

But in 1996, the Progressive Conservative government of Prime Minister Ralph Klein transferred the ADLC to the Pembina Hills School Division. A year earlier, he had sold the educational television channel.

Yet in 2014, ADLC launched the ADLC Learning Network, which, in addition to teaching students, offered support to teachers with resources that could be customized to meet the needs of each student. Contrary to what happened later, small school divisions did not have to pay for the ADLC resources they used.

But in early March 2020, less than a year after Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP were elected, LaGrange announced that all funding for ADLC would be phased out by the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

A spokesperson casually promised at the time that during the two-year transition period, “we are confident that these changes will not prevent current ADLC students from graduating from high school.” . About 80 teaching posts would be cut.

“This is just another strategy to undermine access to quality public education that is going to be a real barrier for rural people and for adults looking to upgrade to access post-secondary education,” Barbara Silva of the group Support Our Students’ defense said premonitiously at the time.

Despite the government’s commitment to phase it out over two years, it was closed a year earlier. “Honestly, we just couldn’t figure out how we could run second year with $ 7 million,” said the Pembina Hills School Division superintendent.

Now LaGrange is going to try to rebuild something a bit like this, hastily and cheaply, maybe even with an ulterior motive.

If in a hurry, the UCP could argue that no one could have predicted COVID-19 when it decided to shut down the ADLC, or that it would have been practical to stick around during a pandemic.

Of course, in March 2020, COVID was already here.

On February 25, the United States Center for Disease Control said COVID-19 was heading towards pandemic status. The World Health Organization declared COVID a pandemic on March 11. UCP hero Donald Trump declared it a US national emergency on March 13. Premier Kenney declared a state of health emergency on March 17.

Yet this just shows that Kenney, LaGrange, and the UCP not only have a penchant for destruction, they have a penchant for destruction. instinct for that!

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