SURREY â€” An independent secondary school based in Surrey has seen its enrolment numbers spike by 200 per cent this September.
Since many high school-age students who might normally attend public school havenâ€™t started what would be week three of the school year, I Learn DL â€” a â€œblended learningâ€ secondary school that incorporates partial in-class lessons and online classrooms â€“ has been taking in a higher volume of students than normal.
The schoolâ€™s principal, Saima Naz, said that for the first time, the institution has actually had to turn away some would-be students.
â€œItâ€™s so intense, so we just have to work through all these requests, but itâ€™s so sad to say no to a lot of them because our blended learning programs are full,â€ Naz told the Now last week. â€œItâ€™s been really busy. Just from our website alone, weâ€™ve been getting 50-plus inquiries a day.â€
In a blended-learning environment, students are on the schoolâ€™s campus (located on the corner of King George Boulevard and 62nd Avenue) two to three times a week and are learning online for the rest of the time, Naz explained.
â€œThatâ€™s a really popular program and we have 23 students in each class and weâ€™re booked. The only spots we have available (are) for the pure online class,â€ she said.
The school isnâ€™t a private one; itâ€™s tuition-free and is funded by the Ministry of Education, but as Naz explained, an independent school receives about 50 per cent of the funding that a public school would. Its teachers are
B.C.-certified, but do not belong to the British Columbia Teachers Federation, and the school is required to follow the standard curriculum set out by the province.
Though I Learn DL has maxed-out their blended learning courses, Naz said thereâ€™s a positive to the conundrum resulting from the BCTFâ€™s strike in public schools across the province.
â€œI think the strike has a lot to do with it because the students donâ€™t have other options,â€ she said, â€œso itâ€™s kind of a positive because the parents are informed about other options and another way of learning. I think that itâ€™s kind of a positive thing because maybe they didnâ€™t think their child had an option, so now theyâ€™re looking for an alternative and perhaps theyâ€™re thinking, â€˜Well actually, this fits my childâ€™s needs better than the public system.â€™â€
In September of 2013, I Learn DL had 250 courses that students were actively enrolled in. This year, Naz said, that number has more than doubled with 510 active courses.
â€œThe 510 course count is really high for us. Iâ€™ve never seen it in the four years Iâ€™ve been here,â€ Naz said.
The schoolâ€™s principal also sided with the students who are getting hit the hardest by the strike â€“ those who are graduating from public school or were hoping to get accepted to post-secondary programs.
â€œI have one studentâ€¦ she canâ€™t get into the BCIT program because the strike happened two weeks before grade 12 was ending and she wasnâ€™t able to write some of her classroom tests,â€ Naz said.
â€œSome of her projects werenâ€™t marked, so her mark ended up being lower than it should have been and then she didnâ€™t make the cutoff to get into the program. She had a conditional acceptance that got taken away, and she couldnâ€™t do the course in the summer because there was no summer school. So, she found us and now sheâ€™s doing the course again to update her mark. Now she has to re-apply and try to get into the program 12 months later.â€
Naz said that I Learn DL has a focus on technology-based education, but unlike many independent or private schools, it is not faith-based.