ROGERSVILLE — A new opportunity for Hawkins Co. students will be available for the 2019-2020 school year. The Hawkins Co. Virtual Academy (HCVA) is a free program offered to any eighth through 12th graders who prefer to learn independently and desire a flexible schedule.

Both home-schooled and public-schooled students alike are encouraged to apply.

The program will feature the same curriculum found in Hawkins Co.’s brick-and-mortar schools and is not just a “work at your own pace” program. Just as in a traditional classroom, the assignments will be academically challenging and will have both start and end dates.

Students will also be held responsible for their attendance and progression through the assigned courses. “The virtual academy is not a website,” said Sharon Lindsey, Principal of HCVA and Pathways Alternative School. “It is an interactive classroom with real teachers and real students who are learning, communicating and interacting together on a regular basis.”

Unlike traditional schools, however, there is no “typical day” for an HCVA student, as each student will have a unique learning plan. The HCVA also offers both a 100 percent online and a hybrid model program.

“For some students, every class may be online,” Lindsey said. “We would consider those students 100 percent HCVA students. For others, they may have two classes at their zoned school, for example, and the rest of their courses online. We would consider that student enrolled in the hybrid model.”

Other students can take advantage of the hybrid model by taking some classes through HCVA and others through duel enrollment at a nearby higher education establishment.

Getting used to this kind of computer-based learning can also help prepare students for life after high school.

“Today, post-secondary institutions have entire degrees that can be obtained totally online, without stepping foot on a college campus,” Lindsey said. “Over half of all college students will take at least one online class before they graduate. Students who have the opportunity to take an online class during high school will be better equipped to handle the computer-based competencies required at post-secondary institutions.”

Director of Schools Matt Hixson also pointed out three student populations who might particularly benefit from HCVA. Homeschooled students in Hawkins Co. currently do not have access to public school resources during the school day. Through HCVA, homeschool students can learn from the same curriculum used in the county’s public schools while in the privacy of their own homes. Students who want to take duel enrollment courses from nearby colleges and universities or learn from hands-on co-op programs with local factories will also benefit from the flexibility offered through HCVA.

According to Hixson, duel enrollment courses often occur at the same time as regularly scheduled high school classes. The same applies to the on-the-job training provided by many local factories. So, students are often limited in the number and type of courses they can take in a day. With HCVA, students arrange their schedules to complete their assigned coursework and also participate in post-high-school preparatory activities.

Hixson, who became Hawkins Co. Director of Schools in January, introduced the idea for HCVA. Before moving to Tennessee, Hixson served as the assistant director of the San Jacinto, California, school system. According to Hixson, public schools in southern California often had to compete with charter schools to bring in students. Charter schools often have less red tape to cross when establishing a school than their public-school counterparts, so the public-school system directors worked to make the curriculum equally challenging and desirable. One of the ways they did this was through the implementation of virtual programs similar to HCVA.

“What we’re trying to do through HCVA is market our great teaching and our unique logistical setup and offer them in a different way,” Hixson said.

So, how can students take part in HCVA? A select number of eighth through 12th grade students will be selected by an application process conducted with the HCVA Admissions Committee. Students who are selected for HCVA must have no current disruptive or severe behavior issues that would prevent progress in an independent learning environment. Students must also be committed to setting aside a dedicated study time, set daily goals, limit distractions, stay engaged with their online classmates and teacher, and seek help when needed. The parents of students enrolled in HCVA also have an important role to play by ensuring that students meet these goals.

“I would suggest that families designate an area of the home for learning,” Lindsey said. “Even if it’s the dining room table, make sure that the area is free of distractions and optimized for student learning.”

Students who are chosen for HCVA will be notified between the last week of July and the first week of August. Students and parents will then need to attend a mandatory orientation meeting conducted by the HCVA Principal, Sharon Lindsey where attendees will learn, among other things, who to contact if they need help at any point.

“Families will not be out there on their own with no assistance,” Lindsey said. “This is a very interactive program. We have teachers in place to assist with tutoring, and we are there for whatever needs a student may have.”

In regard to future plans, the administration hopes to eventually expand the program to include a wider range of courses and grade levels.

HCVA is now accepting applications, which are due no later than July 19, 2019, at 3 p.m., to Principal Lindsey. Parents are also strongly encouraged to provide feedback on the application process.

“We covet your feedback, and it is looked at daily,” Hixson said. “If you see something that we could improve, please let us know.”

The application link can be found at http://www.hck12.net/ or in the Google Docs link at https://forms.gle/W5nLLAtTqroqzvhA6 .

For more information, contact Principal Lindsey at sharon.lindsey@hck12.net.