A new educational program in Saskatoon is helping kids in Grades 7, 8 and 9 balance school with their passions outside the classroom.
Twenty-two students have enrolled in the Flexible Schedule, Blended Learning Program at City Park School. They include musicians, hockey players and even an equestrian rider.
Grade 8 student Rylan Wiens is a competitive diver.
“And I just got really busy because I’m diving seven days a week and school and diving are kind of butting heads,” he said. “So I was trying to find something that was better for both.”
After discussing it with his parents, they decided to give the program a try. Three days in, and Wiens said it already feels more interactive than regular school.
The blended learning program allows kids to miss up to 30 per cent of classroom time in order to train and compete during school hours. Students still get the required 300 hours of instruction–they just have to make some of it up through online learning.
Parents are required to submit their child’s music or sport schedules at the start of the year so that teachers like Mark Peterson know when they’ll be in and out of the classroom.
“It makes sense. When are practice facilities sitting empty? 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. So you can better utilize that,” he said, adding similar programs already exist in Alberta and Regina.
“And it’s better for families too. Instead of getting up at 4 a.m., going to the pool and going to the school and then training after school, you can have a little bit more of a normal family life as well.”
Right now, the program is only for Grades 7, 8 and 9. Sheila McNeill, the program’s other teacher, said it could expand to older grades in the future.
“The age group that we’re currently working with, there are a lot of kids who are trying to decide whether or not (their skill) is something that they want to continue to pursue, so it allows them the flexibility to try the scheduling and see if it works with their family,” McNeill said.
All the traditional school subjects are still taught in the program, but Peterson said the curriculum allows teachers to incorporate their students’ unique skill development goals in the classroom. Both teachers say the school isn’t just for athletes and artists; it’s for anyone who needs a flexible school day to develop a certain skill.
“We are quite confident that it’ll grow, and we’re looking forward to a successful year celebrating a lot of really successful kids in our city,” McNeill said.