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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Tutoring sessions can be expensive, but the Knox County Schools system is getting outside help to boost academic achievement for high school students.
This year, free tutoring sessions will be offered in several county high schools, thanks to private and corporate sponsors.
The Great Schools Partnership is securing funding for several of the centers for academic excellence.
One of the newest centers is set up at West High School. Principal Katherine Banner showed us around the Verizon Cellular Sales Center for Academic Excellence inside her school.
She says the tutoring hub will target student athletes and others who struggle to make the grade.
"High school is a terminal point. We're the end point," Banner explained. "So our goal is to make sure that they graduate and that they do well on their ACT test."
From the court to the classroom, West High math teacher and basketball coach Christopher Kesler says tutoring for his students is a win-win.
"Academics are vital for all athletes," he said. "I always tell my players I'm a teacher first and a coach second. So those things are valuable. Those are the things that are going to carry you. For every player, your career is going to end at some point, and you've got to have something to fall back on."
When finished, the tutoring center at West will be home to dozens of computers and set up as a comfortable space for students to get extra help before and after school. Teachers gave up their lounge to make it happen.
"It's to make sure that kids that are falling below where they need to be are in here and are receiving the support that they need to be successful," Banner added.
Businesses like Verizon Cellular and Pilot Corp. donate money through the Great Schools Partnership to set up the centers.
"Half of our kids are graduating from high school are not college ready or not work place ready, based on ACT scores. A lot of our students have to take remedial classes when they get to college," Great Schools President Buzz Thomas explained.
Thomas is working to secure more funding for the program. West and Central High are the latest to add a tutoring center, but they're planned in half a dozen more Knox County schools.
"We know that one of the things that works for kids to improve their academic performance is to spend more time working with them on their problem areas," Thomas said.
A tutoring program was tested with algebra students and athletes last spring at West High. "It helped them, especially a lot of my seniors, helping them increase their ACT scores, and a couple of them got an opportunity to go on just because they were able to raise their ACT score," Coach Kesler said
Bearden and Farragut High already have tutoring centers. Others are planned for Gibbs, South-Doyle and Halls.
Each costs $15,000 or less per year to run, depending on staffing and technology needs.