As of next school year, students will (theoretically) be able to do their entire grade schooling on-island.
The Island Discovery Learning Community (IDLC) is expanding its program to include grades 10, 11 and 12.
Founded in 2003, IDLC offers flexible learning opportunities to youth on Bowen and in the Lower Mainland. Until now it has only served students up to grade nine (the same grade at which Island Pacific School ends). With a mix-and-match teaching approach, the organization has some students who attend class part-time while other students get support for full-time homeschooling.
IDLC principal and co-founder Allan Saugstad says that this program gives another option to students who have a hard time with the commute to the North Shore or who have anxiety or who find the large high schools of the mainland alienating (a maximum IDLC class size is 12 students). Some students attend IDLC to accommodate a busy extracurricular schedule (working school in with competitive sports or other activities) or attend some classes on the mainland some classtime at IDLC.
“I think that it’s such a great thing, for any teen, having that freedom to really control their own learning a little more,” says Saugstad.
Along with the new services for the advanced grades, IDLC is revitalizing its grades eight and nine program to accommodate challenges parents may face teaching their older children.
“We’ve always found that what happens is that our families love our program, they love how they are involved in their relationship with the teacher but as the kids get older, they [say] ‘this is a little overwhelming,’” says Saugstad.
He says that with the revamped program, the higher grades will have a more structured, teacher-directed curriculum than they did previously.
“So our kids will be accountable to the teacher and the parents don’t have to worry so much,” he explains.
“And we’re hoping to complement [the curriculum] with mentor days and other things. So it’s not just two and a half days [of class time], it might be at least three, maybe four days a week of intense group time,” says Saugstad. “So that will appeal more to the wider audience.”
IDLC is publicly funded by the New Westminster school district, has more than a dozen certified teaching staff and Saugstad says IDLC has an average of 50 to 60 students every year.
Melissa Harrison has two sons at IDLC, one of which is in his eighth year with the program.
“One thing about our program is that the kids, they’re usually really motivated to learn, they’re not like dragging themselves through the day,” she says. “Oftentimes they’ll come [to class] over prepared because they’re super, super excited.”