Challenges of Virtual Learning

Will CTE students thrive in a virtual learning world?

While students enrolled in Knox County Schools’ Virtual Learning Program will be able to come on-campus for all extra-curriculum programs after school hours, issues arise for those students whose curriculum centers around CTE learning — specifically hands-on learning.

“Obviously, welding is not something you’re going to be able to duplicate in a virtual setting,” said Dr. Jon Rysewyk, KCS Chief Academic officer, during a Knox County Board of Education meeting where Robert Thomas, KCS superintendent, laid out his 2020-21 school year COVID-19-adjusted plan Wednesday, July 15.

“But there are some business classes, I know they have some health science (classes) that could be done (virtually),” Rysewyk added.

“… We know there’s some limitations to it, and it’s not ideal, but our hope is to plug them into programs that make sense virtually that may not have been their first choice, what they picked in the spring. But we’re still helping them for their graduation requirement.”

Board of Education representative Terry Hill (District 6, which includes Hardin Valley) asked about CTE students “who have to have the hands-on who are opting for virtual, if there would be any possible way to give them an option for that class” hands-on at the school, “even if it means transporting themselves?

“Don’t close that door,” she added. “If a kid is a senior who needs that (hands-on) to get his welding certification, and he can drive to do it, I hope we’ll have some leeway in those kinds of things?”

Though saying that option would be hard to do “district-wide” due to “transportation” issues, Rysewyk added Hill’s request could be left to a given school’s principal to work out with its CTE program.

“We did tell principals, ‘We want to try to say yes,’ so if you’ve thought of ways to do those kinds of things … that makes sense for a family in a graduation situation, I think we would try everything we could to support it,” he added.

Moreover, “Talking to Dr. (Anthony) Wise at Pellissippi (State Community College), what we understand is a majority of the classes they are going to do in-person … are going to be a lot of CTE classes,” Rysewyk said. “So there may be some opportunities for dual enrollment. … A student could enroll with a Pellissippi teacher and maybe finish that program of study.”

Late to enroll for any family whose child has not signed up for either in-school or the Virtual Learning Program — especially those moving to Farragut, Hardin Valley or elsewhere in Knox County after the Wednesday, July 22 deadline, but before the start of school Monday, Aug. 17 — the following was advised:

“I think if there were some special circumstances, that we can make it happen,” Thomas said about allowing a given family to make a late choice. “I would like to be able to say, ‘we’ll work with you on that.’”

However, Thomas deferred to Rysewyk. The Chief Academic officer said gaining close to exact numbers on the enrollment of VLP participants is important because “schools have until Aug. 3 to build out their virtual schedules. … We’ll have to hire staff for

whatever can’t be covered; in three weeks hire the staff, build the master schedule and be ready to go by (Aug.) 17. That’s a pretty tight timeline for that to happen.”

However, as such families “came in and registered at their base school,

I think that is based on the small number that we should be able to absorb that when they enroll,” Rysewyk added.