The new school system coming to Saskatchewan, with a base here in Swift Current, will impact each of the communities housing it.

While the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation (Sask DLC) will be accepting students from across the province, it will have an office right here in Speedy Creek. 

The impact at home for locals will be felt in a few different ways, not the least of which is by the students themselves.

Darren Gasper, the chief executive officer with Sask DLC, will be heading up the efforts by the Crown Corporation in integrating new hires, new students, and new ties with local communities. 

Darren Gasper, with white hair and glasses, is a caucasian man. He has a smile, and has his eyes narrowed. A blue blazer is over his light blue and white pattern shirt. Darren Gasper, chief executive officer for Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation. (photo courtesy of the Government of Saskatchewan)

"I think the biggest benefit to it is the equity piece," said Gasper. "When we look across the province, and the number of programming opportunities that we can now deliver to every student in Saskatchewan, that's where it really hits home. We've had some great work happening in each of the local online schools and we just like to see those great programs offered to a student anywhere in the province."

The programs being offered to students through the program may not be available at smaller locations with fewer resources. Through the online school format, southwest Saskatchewan children will be able to take full advantage of education and the opportunities it brings no matter their location. 

A big thing with this new centralized online learning centre is the ability to easily partner with existing schools. 

"We're going to have students in both what we call full-time, who are taking their entire K to 12 programming from us online, as well as what we term part-time students, who are students that are located in our brick and mortar schools somewhere in Saskatchewan," expanded Gasper. "They'll be taking a selection of courses from us to enhance the program they're taking at their local school."

The ability to partner up with local venues, like the Swift Current Comprehensive High School and others, will enable students to seamlessly transfer between on-location and distance learning depending on what they feel fits their needs best.

Previously, online learning was implemented on a per-school district basis during the pandemic, as a fix for the lockdowns that prevented regular attendance. Students who underwent the early days of that programming will remember the 'learning as we go' phase, and be happy to hear that under Sask DLC, they will have a more structured system to fall back on. 

In addition, Gasper thinks that, for rural communities especially, Sask DLC will be a game changer going forwards.

"Our ability to expand the programming offerings, especially if you think of those small rural schools, it just increases the amount of opportunity for kids across the entire province," Gasper pointed out. 

For those concerned that Sask DLC will be adding a burden to the existing school division in a budgetary sense, there is good news. As a crown corporation, they will have separate funding. 

"I know the question has come up before about 'why is the Sask DLC not being funded as a new school division'," addressed Gasper. "What we want to make sure is this mechanism would require removing funding from school divisions, and the amount removed from divisions would not likely be equal to the savings school divisions would recognize from discontinuing online learning."

A key concern is making sure students continue to have local support, through partnerships with their local divisions, Here in Swift Current, they will be partnering with local schools and venues for extracurriculars, driving exams, physical education, and other off-line components.