CALGARY — Canada’s first and only online school dedicated to the teaching of students with diagnosed learning disabilities or ADHD is set to open in the fall.
“We are building a school in the clouds,” said John Wolf, principal at Rundle Studio, which is starting with Grades 7 and 8 and a limited intake of 28 students.
“We’ve been talking about ways to branch out and so is that creating schools elsewhere,” said Wolf. “That just takes time and capital, so we’ve been looking for this probably about two years now and with COVID it was just a little bit of a boost.”
The Studio is at Rundle College, which is a top-ranked, independent, co-educational program from kindergarten to Grade 12.
“This is the first virtual designated special education program in the province of Alberta,” said Jason Rogers, head of the Rundle College Society.
“We’re excited about that designation because it does show that there is credibility to the program that we’re about to offer.”
Rundle Academy is home to upward of 200 students with learning disabilities. It has to turn many away every year because it’s running at capacity.
Wolf says the way curriculum has had to be delivered during the pandemic actually turned into a pilot program for Rundle Studio.
“We have the teachers and expertise built on the Rundle Academy foundation and that’s I think what sets us apart from other schools,” said Wolf.
“We really have that in-depth knowledge and understanding of what it means to teach a student with a learning disability and be able to help them succeed.”
The academy it has a 95 per cent success rate of students graduating and going on to their choice of post secondary education. Wolf wants to expand that success rate for kids across the province.
“There are around 10 to 15 per cent of students in the rest of Alberta that have a diagnosed learning disability that go on to post secondary education of their choice,” said Wolf.
“We want to be able to bridge that gap and we believe that Rundle School can do that.
Rogers sees it as an opportunity to help students with learning disabilities no matter where they live in the province.
“We want to be able to support them in reaching their potential,” he said.
Colten Romeike is a 12-year-old student in Grade 7 who was on the waiting list at Rundle Academy.
“Colton, just prior to coronavirus, was diagnosed with learning disabilities and so through that process of sourcing assistance for him is how we got introduced into Rundle,” said Lee Sherback, Colton’s stepdad.
Colton likes most of his classes but struggles with reading and comprehension. His mom, Karalyn Romeike, likes that his instructors will be with him throughout the entire school day, rather than what he’s getting now with just a five minute introduction to his assignments.
“Because with his dyslexia and dyspraxia,” said Romeike. “He needs more help to help understand and comprehend stuff because he can’t just read it and comprehend it.”
Colten doesn’t know much about his new school yet, but says he’s looking forward to it.
“Cause I want to be able to succeed so that I don’t fall behind so I think it’s going to help me a lot,” said Colten.
Learn more about Rundle Studio on its website.
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