Johnson City Schools launches interest survey for new virtual learning academy

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Virtual learning has become the new norm during the pandemic and while many are hoping for an end to this virus, the feeling isn’t mutual in terms of getting rid of remote learning.

Leaders with Johnson City Schools told News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield they had been thinking of implementing a virtual learning academy for a while now.

With the pandemic throwing their staff and students into the swing of it, now is a better time than ever to officially prepare to launch their virtual learning academy for the 2021-2022 school year.

“Our teachers definitely have learned a lot about how to deliver the same quality of instruction. It may look different but it reflects the quality that you would see in all 11 of our Johnson City schools,” said Dr. David Timbs, Supervisor of Secondary & Instructional Technology.

Johnson City Schools announced in a press release last week that they will open their 12th school, being the Johnson City Virtual Academy.

Interested families will need to fill out an Interest Survey for each student, which will become open to the public on Friday, February 12th at 3 p.m. and will remain open until March 1st.

Officials stress that filling out the survey does not mean that you are committing to your decision or are guaranteed admittance to the Academy, it’s strictly gathering the amount of interest in the program and helping district officials to properly prepare.

“Right now we’re planning to open up with a K-12 virtual academy. We’re going to use the data from the survey to really drive that for staffing purposes,” said George Laoo, the Science Hill high school Assistant Principal who will be acting as the building administrator when the program launches.

Dr. Timbs said it will be a more flexible and convenient way for students to receive an education. While COVID cemented the need for virtual learning, this academy will become a permanent fixture in their district moving forward.

The launch of the survey is their way of being proactive and preparing so they know what they will need to adjust staffing wise.

The program isn’t only limited to Johnson City school’s students. According to Dr. Timbs, at the request of the board of education, the survey of interest and program will be open to students of any school district in northeast Tennessee.

“We want to serve our Johnson City students primarily, but we also want to be a resource for parents where they perhaps live in an area that does not have a full-time virtual option,” said Dr. Timbs.

The virtual academy will follow the exact same calendar as all other Johnson City Schools and is expected to take effect for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Currently, school officials are still working to figure out tuition rates for those students outside of Johnson City who desire to be a part of this program. There will not be tuition for students inside the district.

Dr. Timbs said grades 2 through 12 have are 1-to-1 with devices so virtual students will be issued a device as well if they choose the academy.

According to Laoos, teachers will be in a completely virtual form with both synchronous and/or asynchronous instruction, which means there will be live teaching at times along with some prerecorded content so students can have screen breaks as well as work at their own pace.

The survey closes on March 1st and school officials expect the actual application to open on March 22nd.

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