An alternative education program emphasizes a particular language, culture, religion or subject matter or uses a particular teaching philosophy.

Public, separate or francophone school boards can offer alternative programs to meet the specific educational interests of students and their parents. School boards are not required to offer alternative education programs.

Alternative Programs Handbook

The Alternative Programs Handbook includes information to help school authorities (administrators, teachers and trustees), parents and community members understand the expectations and practices related to alternative programs.

Government is revising the Alternative Programs Handbook and will post the updated handbook online when available.


School boards set and are accountable for non-instructional alternative program fees.

Government does not set alternative program fees.

A school board should have a policy for alternative programs and other fees that complies with all applicable legislation and reflects the principles and guidelines in the Alternative Programs Handbook.

Non-instructional fees

A school board has the authority to approve non-instructional alternative program fees. To ensure that the fee amount is accurate and transparent, school boards should:

  • approve program fees each year
  • provide itemized and detailed alternative program fee information to parents before student registration in any given school year

Examples of non-instructional fees include:

  • resources specific to the alternative program
  • school uniforms
  • instructors providing instruction for the alternative portion of the program, not for core courses
  • field trips supporting the alternative program where all students are required to attend

Travel fees

School boards:

  • are not required to provide transportation to an alternative program
  • may charge fees for transportation for an alternative program

If a school board offers transportation for students to attend an alternative program, the school board should list fees for transportation separately from the alternative program fee.

Parents may use transportation to the alternative program as arranged by the school board or transport their child to the program on their own.

We encourage parents to check with the school authority to find out more about transportation options and fees before enrolling a student in an alternative program.

Society fees

A society or non-profit company associated with an alternative program may set:

  • a society fee, or
  • other fees related to membership or involvement in the society or company

This fee is separate from the alternative program fee set by the school board.

A school board cannot deny access to the alternative program on the basis that the student’s parent is not a member of a society or does not pay the fee of a society or non-profit company associated with the program.

The society’s or non-profit company’s fee should be an optional fee that parents may choose to pay and should be outlined and explained in school board and school communications related to the alternative program.

Resolving a dispute about a fee decision

In supporting a cooperative and collaborative learning environment for students, school boards must have a process that supports the resolution of disputes or concerns at the school level. The school board is in the best position to help parents with this process.

If parents and the school cannot reach a resolution through this process then parents may appeal the fee decision to the school board. Alberta respects the authority of locally elected school boards to make final decisions on the matter of school fees.


A school board may offer an alternative program to a student whose parent requests it where, in the opinion of the school board:

  • the school board has sufficient resources and facilities to offer the alternative program
  • the alternative program is appropriate to meet the student’s education needs

Parents and school boards should look for a match between the specific educational interests of the student and the primary focus of the alternative program.

A school board may refuse to enrol a student in an alternative program if it determines that:

  • the student’s educational needs cannot be appropriately addressed in the program, or
  • the program does not have sufficient resources and/or facilities to support the student

The school board must consult with parents before refusing to enrol a student. School boards should communicate clearly with parents its decision and the rationale for the decision. If this decision is made by an employee of the school board, this decision may be appealed to the school board by the parents of the student or the student (if the student is 16 years of age or older).




Connect with Alberta Education to learn more about alternative education programs:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Phone: 780-427-6272
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)