Distributed Learning – Requirements and Guidelines for Students with Special Needs

Date came into force or revised

Revised July 20, 2012. Revised May 2017 



Policy statement

Distributed learning is one option for instructing students with special needs. Boards of Education and Independent School Authorities that offer distributed learning for students with special needs must ensure that specific requirements are followed so that students with special needs have equitable program options as other students. These requirements and guidelines apply to Boards of Education and Independent School Authorities that have signed Distributed Learning (DL) Agreements with the Ministry.

Rationale or purpose of policy

This policy provides fairness and equity for students with special needs who participate in distributed learning. This policy allows students with special needs to have the same educational program options as other students while avoiding the complexity of multiple Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The policy also sets out a funding model that provides funding equity for special needs.


Policy in full

In this policy, the term Board of Education includes a Francophone Education Authority.

This policy applies to students with special needs enrolled in a single distributed learning school or program and also to students with special needs who cross-enrol. This policy and accompanying guidelines do not apply to students who are home schooled.

For funding purposes only, distributed learning students in Grades K-7 may enrol with only one Board of Education or Independent School Authority. However, the enrolling school district may make its own arrangements in providing students with access to distributed learning and support services to meet their special needs.

Distributed learning students in Grades 8-12 may enrol in more than one Board or Authority. When a distributed learning student in Grades 8-12 who has special needs is enrolled with more than one Board or Authority, the Ministry will fund only one Board or Authority. The Board or Authority that identifies itself as responsible for a student’s special needs services is responsible for the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). All boards where a student is enrolled must be consulted by the one holding responsibility for the student’s IEP regarding services and meeting IEP requirements.

To qualify for special needs funding, boards of education must meet the following requirements:

  1. Students with special needs must be included in accountability processes.
  2. Ministry of Education guidelines found in Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines, which contain requirements for assessment and provision of services for students with special needs, must be followed.
  3. For students with special needs in Grades 8-12 who enrol with more than one Board or Authority, the Boards or Authorities will be expected to deem which is responsible for supplementary services. In all cases, the board of education or authority  receiving supplementary funding is expected to develop the student’s IEP and to provide and/or coordinate supplemental services. It will also be responsible for coordinating the student’s transcripts and examinations. The Ministry of Education will fund a single board or authority with special needs supplementary funding.
  4. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) must follow Ministry of Education guidelines found in Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines.
  5. The distributed learning program provided for a student with special needs must comply with provincially prescribed learning standards and/or outcomes of British Columbia K-12 curriculum or the achievement of goals in a student's IEP.
  6. When more than one Board of Education or Independent School Authority provides services, one of them must take responsibility for identification of a student with special needs and consulting with parents on the student's IEP. Each of the boards must have a copy of the IEP in the student’s file and cooperate with the funded board to meet the student’s special needs.
  7. Only a qualified teacher can deliver instruction through distributed learning schools. School Boards or Independent School Authorities are responsible for ensuring that appropriate technical support is available.
  8. A Board or Authority must have a policy that addresses roles and responsibilities, including custodial care, for a student engaged in distributed learning. Boards of Education or Independent School Authorities providing distributed learning are not responsible for custodial care, personal care, or behaviour management for a student taking distributed learning while the student is at home.
  9. Distributed learning students whose primary educational setting is at home may have the option, according to school policy, of participating in a school setting and with school-based support as the need arises. The distributed learning school or program must have access that is equitable to other Board or Authority students to school-based, non-categorical resource services such as learning assistance services, counseling, school psychology services, speech-language pathology, physiotherapy/occupational therapy, and hospital services with the exception of hospital/homebound services.
  10. In the event that services are provided by more than one Board of Education, Independent School Authority or service provider, a written agreement led by the Board or Authority that receives funding must be in place, identifying the roles and responsibilities of each party. Planning such services must be part of the IEP development, and the parents must be consulted. Service providers must be under the supervision of a qualified teacher or principal.
  11. Documentation must be kept on file recording the frequency and duration of the student’s program and support services. 

Procedures related to policy

  1. The organization of the Board of Education's or Independent School Authority’s program should be consistent with the role and mission of the Board or Authority.
  2. They should have in place clear policy and procedures for electronic communications, including an acceptable code of conduct and expectations for participation in electronic communications. 
  3. When students with special needs require specialized instruction, assessment or assistive technologies, this should be done in consultation with the school district or school team, the parents and, when appropriate, the student. 
  4. In considering the appropriateness of a program delivered at a distance, the Board of Education or Independent School Authority should assess the learning needs and familiarity with technology of each student and inform the student/parent regarding all of the following:
    • required access to technologies
    • technical competencies required by the student in the program 
    • the components and expectations of the program
    • the learning and support services available through the program, school, Board or Authority. 
  5. Instruction and learning resources should be provided in a format that meets the student's needs in accordance with the student’s Individual Education Plan.  
  6. Frequent opportunities should be provided for individualized and timely interactions between teachers and students and among students.