The newly opened Elk Island Catholic Schools Central Learning Services building has a dynamic and contemporary design, including glass walls that flood the interior with natural light. Photo by Lincoln Ho

St. Isidore bringing out the best in its students

By  Thandiwe Konguavi, Canadian Catholic News
  • January 31, 2019

EDMONTON – Named after the patron saint of the Internet, St. Isidore Catholic Learning Centre in Sherwood Park, Alta., is far from a traditional school setting. 

But former homeschool student Sarah Milne, 13, whose venture into public school was derailed by bullying, would have it no other way. 

“I like the experience of being able to actually interact with people,” said Sarah. “I was under a lot of stress not being able to fit in in public school but here, you fit in no matter who you are, so you can just focus on school work.” 

Sarah was among a half dozen St. Isidore students, ranging from Grade 8 to 11, sitting around a table chatting and doing school work during the official opening of the Elk Island Catholic Schools Central Learning Services building on Jan. 23. 

St. Isidore is one of eight services brought together in the school division’s new building just outside Edmonton. Sarah takes a five-minute bus ride to St. Isidore’s outreach centre almost every day through its homeschool partnership program. 

She is one of more than 1,200 online students from across Alberta enrolled in the school from Grade 1 to 12, including adult students who are upgrading to enter post-secondary or to earn their high school diploma.

Sarah, who once struggled academically, now boasts top marks. She loves the small class sizes, which have ranged from just two to 17 on any given day. Students have the option to work at the school, at home or anywhere they want. 

“Home education students from Grade 7 to 12 were looking for a more flexible way to learn, not necessarily at home all the time,” said principal Tracy Melnyk. “They come in because they want that face-to-face connection with their teacher.”

In addition to the principal, the centre has four part-time teachers, including a chaplain and religious consultant, and math, science and social studies specialists. 

“We are a small but very mighty staff of dedicated educators who want to see our students succeed,” said Melnyk.

More students are seeking out innovative learning services like St. Isidore’s Genesis online program, said Melnyk, who calls alternative education models the “new normal.” 

“This centre is filling a void by providing a much-desired way of learning for so, so many,” she said. “I think we should’ve done this years ago. There are so many of those students who are on the periphery who just need someone to collect them, and that’s what we’re doing.” 

(Grandin Media)

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