For years, Tullahoma City Schools has led the way in innovative technological practices. As technology became a part of teaching and learning in TCS, thoughts arose about what the future might look like in this virtual arena. Then came a worldwide pandemic.
Teaching during the 2020-2021 school year was anything but ordinary, as educators around the globe were forced to think of innovative and new ways to enhance learning for students amidst COVID-19.
TCS was no different in that regard. As schools moved to a virtual setting, the seed for a new campus inside the Tullahoma City School District was firmly planted. Preliminary district work on the 5-year strategic plan with the school board and leadership team clearly conveyed a priority in the area of virtual learning and, even, a virtual school.
On Thursday, TCS held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebrate the opening of its eighth school, Tullahoma Virtual Academy located at 301 W. Decherd St.
The new Tullahoma Virtual Academy allows high school students to personalize learning and complete their high school education at their own pace. This new academy was made possible from a $750,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Education for Innovative High School Models.
Dr. Greg English is serving as the first-ever Director of the Tullahoma Virtual Academy. English was previously an assistant principal at Tullahoma High School and was instrumental this past year as virtual director at THS when schools were forced to move to online learning.
“Dr. English brings a multitude of strength and experience in leading technological innovation in the teaching and learning setting, as well as building strong programs that benefit students,” said TCS Director of Schools,
Dr. Catherine Stephens. “We are excited that he is leading this initiative and has begun to put together a strong team to make a difference in the lives of students served in TVA.”
The Academy is currently serving fifty students. While enrollment is closed for the current school year, students interested in enrolling in the Tullahoma Virtual Academy for the 2022-2023 school year will have three options.
The first is through full-time instruction, which is available to all ninth through 12th-grade students.
“There are many reasons for a student to choose full-time virtual learning,” Dr. English stated. “We hope to maximize the flexibility this approach creates for students and provide them with unique opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to enjoy.”
Students may also register in the FLEX program, which allows students to have the option to enroll in either the Tullahoma Virtual Academy or at Tullahoma High School. However, under FLEX, students may take courses at each campus. For example, a registered student at the Tullahoma Virtual Academy may take some classes at THS. FLEX students who enroll at the high school will also be eligible to take courses at the virtual academy.
“I believe this is the true strength of what we are doing at TVA,” Dr. English said. “Students can customize their learning experience and take ownership of it. We believe that, by putting students in the driver’s seat of their education, their level of engagement will be greater.”
The third option, the Plus-One plan, is only eligible to 10th through 12th-grade students enrolled at Tullahoma High School. The Plus-One model is geared toward students who wish to take additional courses on top of their full-course load. Students will also be able to earn credits toward their post-secondary institution of choice.
“The Plus One option is perfect for the student who is interested in being an early grad. Taking a fifth class each semester makes it easy for this student to complete graduation requirements ahead of schedule,” Dr. English said. “From my experience as the THS band director, I also know how difficult it is for students who are fully engaged in some of the great programs at THS to explore other elective offerings such as the robust CTE program. Taking a Plus One class creates the opportunity for students to spread their wings and explore other courses that may help solidify their pathway to future success.”
An essential element of TVA is student connection. To ensure that the virtual academy has a space dedicated for students to gather, work, collaborate and/or meet with teachers, a virtual café was created.
While courses for the virtual academy take place online, students will still have the option to meet in person in this new Tullahoma Virtual Café located inside the Community School Services Building. The café will be stocked with refreshments and snacks for students, and it will also provide a place where students can study, interact, and connect.
“This space sets our virtual campus apart, as we want to ensure that our students are not lost in cyberspace.” Dr. Stephens said. “We want to ensure that they are a vital part of an innovative learning community that supports students’ social and emotional growth, as well as meets their academic needs.”