Saskatchewan is moving toward centralizing online school courses for kindergarten to Grade 12.
There are currently 33 online school systems in Saskatchewan. They serve about 4,000 full-time students, and thousands more part-timers, according to the province.
This initiative was first mentioned in the 2021 throne speech, which laid out a commitment to create a new learning policy to ensure students receive the best education if they study online.
Education Minister Dustin Duncan says the plan is to have the centralized system up and running by fall 2023.
"We looked pretty closely at what kind of models existed around the country, and were there opportunities to find some efficiencies through centralizing," Duncan said.
"My hope is over the next years we work with school divisions to develop this online."
Duncan says online classes are trending upwards.
"More and more students, regardless of the pandemic, were taking classes online," Duncan said. "You look out over the next decade plus, we'll probably see more of this, not less."
He said the new system will be more efficient with public money and offer more course variety.
Catholic school divisions
Duncan says Catholic school divisions will continue to have the right to operate their own online learning.
"Whether they decide to continue to remain separate when it comes to online learning, that'll be up to them to decide. But certainly we would leave that door open for them to join the centralized model," Duncan said.
"We certainly do want to have a conversation with them to see if there are further efficiencies that can be found with bringing them into the centralized model."
Sean Chase, director of education for Regina Catholic Schools, told CBC the division will not participate in the centralized system.
"Regina Catholic's learning online school has a rich history, serving students for 15 years through an innovative and effective approach. Our staff members' years of experience provided the foundation to quickly transition hundreds of additional students to this learning avenue throughout the pandemic," Chase said in an email to the CBC.
"Regina Catholic Schools intends to maintain our learning online school given the information and option the announcement provided."
When asked if the division might change its mind as more details are released and dialogue with the province is conducted, Chase said he would not speculate.
The work to centralize online learning for Saskatchewan students will operate under the management of a new treasury board Crown corporation. As with in-class learning in Saskatchewan, the new online school will provide free education for its students.
Student registration is anticipated to open this winter.
According to the province, teachers also will have opportunities to work for the online school this coming winter, regardless of where they teach.
Funding for centralized online learning will be provided by the Government of Saskatchewan. The province says exact figures will be determined in the coming weeks.
The province says it's working to continue to determine a staffing and funding model and select a platform provider, with information to be announced once available.