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UPDATE: Don't want to send your child back to class? Here are New West's 3 alternatives

The New Westminster school district has developed a new online learning program for K-8 students in response to concern from the community
Hume Park Home Learners
New registrations for the Hume Park Home Learners Program may be decided by lottery if demand is great for September. The distributed learning program is one of three alternatives being put forward by the New Westminster school district in response to concerns about the return to class.

NOTE: This story was updated at 6:42 p.m. Aug. 26 with new information.

Parents who don’t want to send their children back to class in New West this September have three options on the table – but none of them look like the district-led “remote learning” that happened in the spring.

In the face of growing public concern about sending children back to schools while COVID-19 numbers around B.C. continue to rise, the New Westminster school district is putting forward three alternatives for families.

The one option that’s new this fall is a newly developed online learning program for kindergarten to Grade 8 students; previously, online learning has been available for high school and adult students only.

As in past years, students in grades 9 through 12 will be able to choose to take one or more courses through the online program if they so desire; offerings for this school year have been expanded to allow more options. Now, however, elementary and middle school students will also be able to choose the online program – which combines some real-time learning with videos and independent work. It will be supported by classroom and learning support teachers, educational assistants and counsellors, but parents and caregivers must be prepared to provide the necessary additional support.

The school district cautions that the program will require more hands-on involvement by families than the remote learning that happened at the end of the last school year.

“While it will be delivered by our district’s teachers, it will require families to be more independent in their children’s education than remote learning through the spring was,” explained Kristen Keighley-Wight, the district’s communications manager. “Parents and families who are interested in applying for this program should first read more about it on the district’s website to help fully inform their decision.”

Keighley-Wight said the program came about as a result of feedback from the community.

“We’re really proud to be able to offer this newly created program for New Westminster. While we believe that schools are the best place for most students to learn, we also heard from families who had health concerns or varying degrees of worry around what was going to be right for their family,” she said.

Whether new teachers or staff will need to be hired to make the program work is still to be decided; once the school district has a better idea of numbers for the K-8 online learning program, it will make that decision. Loans of district Chromebooks may be available on a case-by-case basis for those who need technology.

The district warns that, due to staffing and cohort issues, spaces in the online program may be limited and could result in the use of a randomized draw for spots.

The other two options for families, outside of the return to in-class instruction, are two pre-existing choices: homeschooling and the Hume Park Home Learners Program.

With homeschooling, the parent is fully responsible for delivering the educational program to the child at home. It’s the full responsibility of the family, and education isn’t supported by a teacher. Parents who choose this route need to register by Sept. 30.

“We’re not encouraging parents to leave us and home school, but we’re respecting your decision,” superintendent Karim Hachlaf told parents at a townhall meeting on Aug. 24.

The Hume Park Home Learners Program, which is available for K-8 students, is a different option – it’s a form of what the Ministry of Education refers to as “distributed learning,” where teachers lead a program for families who want to partner in their child’s education.

With the program, families combine attendance at the Hume Park site (up to 50% of the time) with parent-led home instruction.

"Students and families who are most successful at the Home Learners Program tend to have at least one parent who can be very engaged in actively adding learning opportunities into their broader daily activities and schedules," the district's plan says.

Hachlaf said there is currently space available in the program, but if demand exceeds that space, applications may be decided on a lottery basis.

(For more on the differences between homeschooling and distributed learning, you can find information from the Ministry of Education at

Check out details about the Hume Park program at

In all cases, the choice to pursue an alternative form of schooling comes with the ability to hold a child’s place in their school for the 2021/22 school year.

In past years, any family having opted out of the school system would have been forced to withdraw their child from their school to do so and thus potentially lose their spot – a particular concern in a district where many schools are already at capacity.

“It was our aim to be as flexible as we could, where possible, and we clearly heard from families who valued their connection their local school and wanted to maintain that for their kids,” Keighley-Wight said.

But parents also need to be aware of two caveats with alternative learning.

First, if a family wants to withdraw from in-class instruction, the district can not currently guarantee that they’ll be able to change their mind part way through the year, because of the logistical concerns around staffing and cohort numbers.

Second, the district won’t be able to guarantee spots in programs of choice, such as French immersion or Montessori, if the child is pulled out to pursue an alternative form of schooling.

A full breakdown of all the options is now available online at

The application process for alternatives opens Thursday, Aug. 27 and closes at 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31. Note that each child may apply for only ONE program, and attempts to apply for multiple options for one child may result in all of the applications being withdrawn.

The district also notes that, where possible, requests to keep siblings together will be considered.

Individualized programs may also be available, on a case-by-case basis, for those students with immune suppression. See more here.

The district’s full back-to-school plan is now available at