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Pandemic puts online learning in center stage

Johnson County School Board discusses online learning at their March 12, meeting. Photo by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Johnson County Schools has limited online learning. That will not be the case in the future. The Johnson County School Board focused heavily on a proposed partnership between Johnson County Schools and Pearson Connections Academy Virtual School at its March meeting. Connections Academy is a free, full-time online school. Students from kindergarten up to high school are qualified. 

Online capabilities extend how many students Johnson County Schools can reach. They are also paramount during times like the current school shutdown by the request of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Students will be at home until April 24, 2020. Johnson County Schools are using resources such as SAILS, Adapted Minds, Discovery Education, and Khan Academy to supplement schoolwork during the shutdown. 

Implementing Pearson Connections Academy Virtual School, as well as a  Johnson County specific version, will ensure students receive proper schooling  even when circumstances keep them off of school grounds. 

According to the Pearson Connections Academy representative, this program  will bring students back  into the school district. The last numbers showed  approximately 127 homeschooled students in the area. Not only would this bring these students back into the public school system  without compromising their current situation, but it  would also provide classes that Johnson County students do not have access to normally. 

“This will expand opportunities for everyone,” Chairman Howard Carlton commented.

Joining will not cost the schools any funding. It will qualify Johnson County Schools for more Basic Education Program (BEP) funding, which will cover all costs and leave about two percent, a minimum of $60,000, extra funding for the school system. It seems like a win-win scenario. Students’ quality of learning remains steady, while local schools receive more funding. 

The Johnson County School Board passed the proposal 4-1 and decided  to discuss the localized version more at a later time. This online education program will be available for the 2020-2021 school year. For more information on current resources, see  the Johnson County Tennessee Department of  Education Facebook page or jocoed.net.