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Tennessee Virtual Academy's future still uncertain


(WBIR) Leaders at Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) say they are working hard to improve test scores at the school.

It has been nearly two months since the Union County School Board voted to keep more than 600 new students enrolled, despite the state's concerns.

During the summer, the board said they would have to unenroll those students to keep the school running. Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman later said he would leave it to the school board to decide.

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Since then, Union County Director of Schools Dr. Jimmy Carter said a few parents chose to go with different schools because of the uncertainty surrounding TNVA's future.

"We had some districts that believed that maybe the virtual school was no longer open just because of the back and forth and everything. But for the most part, those students are enrolled and we are keeping a very close eye on them," Dr. Carter said.

According to Dr. Carter, TNVA has started a new program where each student is assigned a mentor. He believes this will help improve test scores.

If the virtual academy cannot produce Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test scores at a level of expectations, known as a Level 3, Commissioner Huffman said he would close TNVA at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Those results will be available in June.

"We won't know what level we're at until that point... I guess we need to just work closely together and through it. I think the worst thing we can do is put parents in a bad situation so we will work through it to make sure we don't do that," Dr. Carter said.

Carter said predicting the school's future is tough because there are many factors up in the air. Among them is whether state lawmakers will renew the Virtual Public Schools Act in the next legislative session.

If renewed, Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), who is for the virtual school, said he is not sure Huffman has the authority to close TNVA.

"Previous attorney general (Robert Cooper) said he did have it. We're thinking, we've got a new attorney general (Herbert Slatery) and he's a Republican... the older one was a Democrat so maybe the attorney general will look at it different," Sen. Niceley said.

According to Dr. Carter, more than 1,600 students are enrolled at TNVA. Knox County has the second highest amount of enrollees in the state just behind Shelby County.


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