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More education options with Flex42

Darren Rowell, vice-principal at School District No. 42’s Riverside Centre, developed the new program, called Flex 42. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Darren Rowell, vice-principal at School District No. 42’s Riverside Centre, developed the new program, called Flex 42.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Parents of Environmental School students cheered as the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board passed Flex42, a new program that is designed to offer students in Grades 8 and 9 a customized education alternative to the traditional classroom.

The program was developed by Darren Rowell, the vice-principal of Riverside Centre.

School District 42 offers several flexible learning options for students from kindergarten to Grade 7. In addition to the Environmental School, there is cyber school, the Wheelhouse and Bridge, as choice classrooms.

However, once students from those programs enter high school, they had no option for a program that allows for flexible student scheduling.

“There is a demand for flexibility,” said Rowell, adding that the education ministry recommends greater flexibility in the system.

There are a variety of reasons for this demand. Some children are involved in activities such as high-level sports or dance that take them away from classes, while some have parents who take them traveling, and others simply prefer to learn independently.

Flex 42 will be located at a secondary school that will have space for the 2014-2015 school year, but has not yet been decided.

The new program will consist of a combination of scheduled and school time. Students will be learning in a class, as a group, on some days.

“We want them to have a connection to a class as part of their learning,” explained Rowell.

There will be other days where students will learn off-site, on their own, under the supervision of a parent.

“The goal of Flex42 is to provide students with a program that provides flexibility for where, when and how students learn,” states a report to the board. “Flex42 will have an inquiry-driven, project-based learning focus and is intended to support acquisition of 21st Century learning skills and competencies for students.”

Acting superintendent Laurie Meston told the board Flex42 is “an organic program – we don’t quite know what it is going to look like.”

Trustee Susan Carr noted that her daughter has attended cyber school, and said a common request the board gets is to have some high school classes, and some course work that can be done online.

“This is a really good start at addressing that type of learning in our high schools,” she said.

Wendy Rairdan was among the delegation of Environmental School parents who attended the meeting to see Flex 42 passed by trustees.

Environmental school students do place-based and project-passed learning. Rather than studying subjects separately, they learn by projects like woodworking, candle making and cooking. They can be in nature, or in their yurt.

Going from that learning environment to a conventional high school classroom can be jarring for students.

“The difference is really startling, for us as well as the kids,” said Rairdan.

Although Environmental School students have generally done well academically in high school, she said Flex42 will offer those students and their parents a more graduated introduction to traditional classes.

“It’s a great transition piece,” she said. “The whole point of it, is to be really flexible.”

She noted Flex42 was not designed for Environmental School students, and it will be open to anybody.

Meston said student interest will determine whether Flex42 gets off the ground. It is to start in September 2014.

“It needs to be a viable program. We’ll put it out there, and see how many we get.”

• For more information about the program visit the district website.

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