Nine Cortes Island students are waiting to hear whether they will have to move to Campbell River during their high school years. This has been the norm for many Cortes families. Others sent their children to a boarding house in Campbell River during the week. The parents of nine Cortes students found another option. They send their children to a Powell River school two days a week, through the Partners in Education program (PIE), and teach them at home the other three days.
This involves a quick boat ride across to Lund, where their children board a school bus.
“We were really excited about the possibility of this program because it meant we could provide so much of what I think is essential for high school: socialization; access to more programming; also access to more physical resources than what they are able to offer on Cortes,” explained Jenny Hartwick, who has two children in the program.
However the Ministry of Education is streamlining its independent learning programs. Powell River is in a different school district (#47) and it is not certain that Cortes Island students, who are in school district #72, will be allowed to attend in the 2022/23 school year.
Cortes students will be allowed to continue enrolling, if Powell River can become a provincial online learning provider. Unfortunately, it is not yet known if the Powell River program qualifies, or if this is even a possibility for a small rural school.
PIE is also offered in Campbell River, which is the right school district (#72), but too far for Cortes Island students to commute on a daily basis.
Manda Aufochs Gillespie said she enrolled her children in Powell River’s PIE program “because I have a high school age student who wants and needs access to more educational support and also peers and this was the closest way, physically, to access that. The other alternative was to basically send her away to board in Campbell River, which I wasn’t ready to do.”
Hartwick said she has one year left before the oldest of her children would have to start attending school in Campbell River. This is not something she wants to do. Hartwick’s family has been living on Cortes for more than a decade.
“This is our home. We’ve built our gardens here; we’ve build our lives here; we have built our community here,” she said.
“People have come up with some very innovative ways of managing to provide high school education for their kids. Some families have homeschooled all the way through. Some have boarded their children. There is a house in Campbell River where your children live with other families. Parents take turns being the house parent for a week at a time.”
“For me, that was never an attractive prospect because I do not want to split my family up. I do not want to send my kids away for weeks at a time and only see them on week-ends and only if the weather cooperates in the wintertime. That’s not my vision of my family with my kids, especially during their teenage years.”
The PIE program appeared to offer everything Hartwick was looking for.
In response to Cortes Current’s query about Cortes Island students being allowed to continue their education through Powell River’s PIE program, a ministry of education spokesperson emailed:
“The Ministry is currently modernizing the delivery of online learning programs to support the new curriculum and ensure every student has equal, consistent access to quality education.
“As part of the process, the Ministry has been consulting with representatives in the education sector on how to improve the online learning model since 2019, and plans to implement a new model starting in the 2022/23 school year.
“Under the new model, students can continue to take all or part of their educational program at a local online school or a provincial online school.
“School districts will decide whether to apply to be a provincial online learning provider so the district can offer online learning programs to students outside of their district, such as through the Powell River school district’s (SD 47) Partners in Education (PIE) program.”
“In June, Ministry staff met with the superintendent of SD 47 and the principals of the PIE program to clarify the new model and timelines.
“School districts will be informed soon about the process to apply.”
Top photo credit: looking across from Lund towards Cortes Island by Dale Simonson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
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