Alternate education programs have, at their core, a simple premise: Some students can’t find success in a traditional school setting.
Years ago they were lost to the system, leaving either voluntarily or being expelled because of their inability to fit in.
It was a harsh outcome. But the consequences were mitigated by the fact that at the time a high school diploma was a less-crucial thing. It had value, of course, but it was still possible (albeit more difficult) to lead a productive life without one.
That simply is no longer the case. Even the most entry-level jobs require a Dogwood diploma.
That reality prompted educators to start changing the way school programs were delivered. Rather than force students to conform to a rigid educational regime, they developed new programs that catered to more varied and complicated learning needs.
They provided alternatives.
Not only were the programs intended to keep students in school longer, they offered life skills, problem solving and social acuity so critical later in life.
More than a few studies have shown that success in education lessens the chance of problems later in life.
The CHANCE centre on Prest Road has been providing Chilliwack students those alternatives during the critical middle school years.
But this week, students and parents learned that option won’t be available this September. The school is closing and students will be returned to existing middle schools.
How this will look, exactly, remains unclear. The change is part of a larger realignment of alternative education programming in the Chilliwack School District.
The uncertainty is unfortunate. These are vulnerable students who deserve to know how their educational needs will be met.
The district is promising more information. However, it would have been more helpful to articulate that information at the time of the decision, and not leave it to rumour and supposition.