The Surrey District Parents Advisory Council wants families to have more than two back-to-school options for their kids come September.
Students in the district can currently choose between returning to the classroom or homeschooling for the upcoming school year.
But the council has written an open letter to the minister of education calling for the creation of a third option allowing students to work online from home without losing their spot in the school they are enrolled in.
The flexible hybrid model, according to the letter, would allow students to transition easily back to the classroom when they and their families feel it is safe.
"We all have our own choices to make and these families, that's what they are looking for, a choice," said Rina Diaz, president of the council, on CBC's The Early Edition on Wednesday.
The district has more than 74,000 students and Diaz said Surrey schools were so overcrowded during the last school year that some physical education classes had to take place in hallways.
She said not only would a remote learning option make some families feel safer, it would also make it less risky for those who do choose to return.
"We move a certain percentage online, we are taking away students from the classroom," said Diaz.
The council also included in the letter a request for mandatory face masks wherever physical distancing is not possible — including in classrooms, labs and libraries — and not just in common spaces, as is the current plan.
"We need you to understand that for some of our families, this means playing a game of Russian roulette with the lives of their loved ones," reads the letter about the current district plan.
Education Minister Rob Fleming was asked about the interest in more remote learning options at a Wednesday press conference.
He said several times that districts would have funding flexibility and certainty to provide learning options.
He would not say, however, that it would be mandatory for districts to provide specific remote learning options.
"It will look differently in different parts of the province," Fleming said. "We wouldn't seek to impose a solution on Arrow Lakes that wouldn't work for Vancouver, nor vice versa.
"What all districts, I think, are going to benefit from is they are going to have funding security and funding flexibility to be able to continue to serve communities."
Fleming said 30 districts are working with First Nation communities and the "broader" community on remote learning approaches to explore as additional options in September.
He said the ministry plans to meet with stakeholders in coming days to discuss French immersion availability over distributed learning.
"Districts, in their plans ... have done an incredible job of preserving choice programs," Fleming said.
VSB exploring option
The Vancouver School Board (VSB) is considering creating a new option for students in its district similar to what Surrey parents would like to see.
In a letter sent to parents on Aug. 24, Rob Schindel, associate superintendent, said a remote learning option is being explored.
The option would allow students to work from home and receive learning support from the district, including one-on-one check-in times with an online teacher.
Students who opt for the remote option would remain enrolled in their local school and be placed in a learning group for possible transition to eventual in-person instruction.
The VSB has asked parents to provide feedback by Aug 27.