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Tennessee Virtual Academy keeps 626 new students | News

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Tennessee Virtual Academy keeps 626 new students


(WBIR) The Union County School Board voted Wednesday night to keep more than 600 students enrolled at Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA).

The vote comes after the state told the board they would have to unenroll those students to keep the school running.

In a letter dated July 30, 2014, Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman said he would leave it to the school board to decide whether or not to unenroll 626 new students, without the threat of closing the school.

The board unanimously voted in favor of keeping the students enrolled.

"Elated. Now we get to start school with our 626 students. Now we get to have a kindergarten class. We can proceed on," said Josh Williams, TNVA head of school.

It means Marissa Alexander's two girls, Haley and Alexis, will start school together on Monday. Alexis was one of hundreds of first-time students who were in jeopardy of losing their enrollment spot.

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When 10News asked Alexander if she was relieved by the vote, she said, "Yes, more than you can know."

But if TNVA cannot produce Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test scores at a level of expectations, known as a Level 3, or higher for the 2014-2015 school year, the state will close TNVA. TNVA has averaged at a Level 1 for the past three years.

"This decision allows TNVA an opportunity to prove it can meet the state's expectations, which Union County Public Schools (UCPS) and TNVA have insisted it can and will do despite the school's prior record of low growth," Huffman said in the letter.

Alexander responded with, "Challenge accepted. We are going to prove Mr. Hoffman wrong about the new students and obviously after two years with the school they strive, they achieve."

The Union County School Board said it already knew there was a possibility TNVA could close at the end of the school year. State lawmakers would have to extend the Virtual Public Schools Act in the next legislative session.

"That law sunsets June 30, 2015. So I'm not sure what happens with the legislation at that time. I believe there will be bills introduced to continue it, and the legislators will debate that, and that will be for them to decide," said Jimmy Carter, Union County director of schools.

TNVA's projected enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year is 1,888 students. Out of those students, 33% are first-year students while 67% are returning students. TNVA expects better test results because there are more returning students than new ones, with returning students scoring a Level 3 out of 5 last year.

TNVA has turned away 2,138 students since July 11, following Huffman's request to close any new applications.


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