Online Learning Policy - Students with Special Needs (Interim)

Date came into force or revised

July 1, 2021


Interim online learning policies are in effect for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 school years.

Policy statement

Online learning is one option for instructing students with special needs. Boards of Education and Independent School Authorities that offer online 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. This policy applies to Boards of Education and Independent School Authorities that provide online learning.

Rationale or purpose of policy

Changes to the School Act regarding online learning came into effect on July 1, 2021. A new, comprehensive online learning policy and a procedures guide are under development with Indigenous rightsholders and stakeholders and will be fully implemented on July 1, 2023. The former distributed learning policies have been replaced by interim online learning policies that will be in effect until June 30, 2023.

This policy provides fairness and equity for students with special needs who participate in online 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 supplementary funding model that provides funding equity for special needs.


Policy in full

In this policy, the terms board of education or Board include a francophone education authority. The term Authority refers to an independent school authority. 

Online learning programs and courses must be led by BC certified teachers or Letter of Permission holders.

This policy applies when a student with special needs is enrolled in a single online learning school or independent online learning school. It also applies when a student is enrolled in more than one school administered by the same Board or Authority or cross enrolled for online learning.  To cross enrol a student in online learning, the cross-enrolling Board or Authority must have an interim online learning agreement with the Minister [LINK to definition in this policy].  

This policy and accompanying guidelines below  do not apply to homeschooled children.

Boards or Authorities providing online learning are not responsible for custodial care, personal care, or behaviour management for a student taking online learning while the student is at home.

For funding purposes, an online learning student in Grades K-7 may enrol with only one Board or Authority.  However, the enrolling Board or Authority may make its own arrangements in providing the student with access to online learning and support services to meet the learning or educational requirement of their Individual Education Plans (IEP). [LINK to definition of IEP in this policy]

Online learning students in Grades 8-12 may be cross enrolled by more than one Board or Authority. A Board or Authority that cross-enrols a student for online learning must have an interim online learning agreement with the Minister.When a Grade 8-12 student with special needs is cross enrolled by another Board or Authority, the Ministry will provide special needs supplementary funding to 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) [LINK to definition in this policy].  All Boards or Authorities where a student is enrolled must be consulted by the one holding responsibility for the student’s IEP regarding services and meeting Individual Education Plan (IEP) requirements.

Boards and Authorities are expected to meet the following requirements to qualify for special needs supplementary funding to provide support services:

  1. Students with special needs should be included in accountability processes.
  2. Ministry of Education and Child Care 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 cross enrolled with more than one Board or Authority, the Boards and/or Authorities are expected to determine which is responsible for supplementary services.  In all cases, the Board 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 assessments. The Ministry of Education and Child Care will fund a single Board or Authority with special needs supplementary funding.
  4. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) must follow Ministry of Education and Child Care guidelines found in Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines.
  5. The online learning program provided for a student with special needs must comply with BC curriculum learning standards [LINK to definition in this policy] or the achievement of goals in a student's IEP.
  6. When more than one Board or 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 or Authorities must have a copy of the IEP in the student’s file and cooperate with the funded Board or Authority to meet the student’s special needs.
  7. Only a BC certified teacher or Letter of Permission holder can deliver instruction through online learning schools.  Boards or 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 online learning.  
  9. Online 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 online 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. When services are provided by more than one Board or Authority or third party service provider, a written agreement led by the Board or Authority that receives special needs supplemental 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.  Third party service providers must be under the supervision of a BC certified teacher or principal. (See Online Learning Policy—General (Interim)[LINK to that policy] for more information about third party service providers)
  11. Documentation must be kept on file recording the frequency and duration of the student’s program and support services. 

Guidelines related to policy

  1. The organization of the Board or Authority’s online learning 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 online or digital communications, including an acceptable code of conduct and expectations for participation in online or digital communications. 
  3. When students with special needs require specialized instruction, assessment or assistive technologies, they should align with the policy and procedures that apply to a standard school and be done in consultation with the Board or Authority’s special education administration staff or school team, the parents and, when appropriate, the student. 
  4. In considering the appropriateness of a program delivered online, the Board or 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.