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Board takes look at virtual classrooms

An application will be sent to the Tennessee Department of Education for a virtual school after the Washington County Board of Education voiced its full support to see if the option is feasible for high school students.
Director of Schools Ron Dykes told the board during a called meeting May 20 that their intent is to initiate a virtual school in Washington County that would use personnel and programs that are already in place at Asbury Optional High.
Director of Federal Programs Dr. Ellis Holcombe said the only cost they are looking at is for a certified teacher.
“You have to have a certified teacher for every course that you are offering to be able to work with the students directly,” he said.
Dykes told the board that if they had to add any programs for the virtual school, it would be nominal.
Washington County has an online instructional program called Grad Point, which meets and exceeds all of Tennessee education standards, including Common Core. The program has 60 course offerings, which includes all subjects necessary to meet grade 9-through-12 requirements.
If the application is approved by the state and 12 students were enrolled in the virtual school, it would generate $100,000 for Washington County schools, Dykes told the board.
He said the program would target those students that are home-schooled. This year, Dykes said 51 high school students who would normally attend Washington County schools were enrolled in home-school programs.
Holcombe said school officials want to submit an application because they are trying to get back some of the money they are losing. The 51 students lost to home schooling, was a loss of $500,0000 for Washington County schools.
“That’s half a million dollars if they would have stayed in our schools we would have gained,” he said.
Holcombe said students that are leaving high school are often going into a program that will cost them money. The virtual school, he said, would not cost them money to attend.
The goal of the virtual school, Dykes said, is to enroll no more than 10 students if the state approves the application
The virtual school will work in a manner similar to regular high schools.
Once the students complete all the required work and successfully pass the end-of-course exams, they will graduate.
The students would have to be local to Washington County, he explained, because they would have to come in for tutoring and testing.
“We are hopeful that we have a good program,” Holcombe said of the virtual school. “We don’t want anything but the best kind of program.”
He said if for some reason the program does not look like it’s going to be successful, it’s just an application.
The state has increased their standards for virtual schools, Holcombe said, because they were not receiving the results they wanted.
He said if the state approves the application, the board will receive an update on how the program will be implemented.
Another matter was discussed before the board adjourned from its called meeting.
Dykes told the board that he was informed late Tuesday afternoon that TCAP achievement quick scores for students in grades 3rd through 8th would not be ready before the end of the school year. The TCAP scores account for 25 percent of the student’s final grade.
“The scores will not be ready until the end of next week,” Dykes said Tuesday night.
He said an option, which would request a waiver from the commissioner of education to eliminate the TCAP exam scores for the student’s final grades, was provided by the local core office.
With the waiver, Washington County Schools would not include the TCAP scores in the 3rd through 8th grade student’s final grade.
The board authorized Dykes to pursue the waiver.
The waiver was granted May 21 by the Commissioner of Education. Students’ grades in grade 3-8 will reflect their classroom performance, but will not reflect their performance on the TCAP assessment, which typically accounts for 25 percent of final grade. Parents will still receive their child’s TCAP results as normal.