KCS Board of Education approves contract with Florida Virtual School to help teach students enrolled in online classes

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday night to approve a contract with Florida Virtual School to help teach some of the district’s online courses this fall.

Around 18,500 students enrolled in the KCS’s Virtual Learning Program.

Knox County Schools superintendent Bob Thomas said students will take thousands of online classes this semester and most of those will still be taught by Knox County teachers, with 311 of those classes to be taught by Florida instructors.

The option to use teachers from Florida was proposed as KCS officials said there were more teacher shortages than there are now, with dozens of empty teaching positions having been filled in the last week.

Because positions have been filled with Knox County Schools, the school system will also save money, with the new price tag for the contract roughly around $300,000.

The initial estimated cost had been at least $1 million.

The agenda item, recommended by the superintendent, states: “Approve contract with Florida Virtual School for the purchase of educational software and services for the term of August 10, 2020, through August 9, 2021, at an estimated cost of $1-1.5 million for the 2020 fall semester not to exceed $3 million for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Basically, this is to help provide virtual schooling for all of the students that signed up for that option.

Last week, Thomas said KCS had “about 1,400 students right now that we won’t be able to schedule in the virtual learning program unless we contract with Florida Virtual School, which we’ll bring that contract to the board next week.”

“We had about 18,500 students sign up for virtual learning program, which was about double what we thought. It’s a lot of schedule changes involved in enrolling the students in virtual learning program,” Thomas said last week.

The proposal had been met with some concern by board member Jennifer Owen. She said, “Anytime we’re talking about outsourcing, that should be a big red flag to everyone in this room.”

“Not in favor of outsourcing teaching, that’s not what this is about. It would be a one year contract just to allow us to offer what we promised and told parents and students that we were going to deliver,” Thomas said last week.

Wednesday night, the board approved the contract 8-1, with Owen as the only dissenting vote. The board gave a second approval Thursday afternoon.

The school system has managed to whittle down the number of teachers even further after filling a large number of vacancies, according to the board Thursday. That reduction is also expected to bring the cost down from around $1.5 million to around $160,000 dollars.

Knox County Schools first day of class for students in-person and online is Aug. 24.

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