KNOXVILLE, Tenn — For the first time, Knox county Schools will have three schools dedicated just to virtual learning as students prepare to start the school year. They emphasized that the new schools are not only because of the pandemic.
Instead, it's a new way of adjusting the classroom to accommodate all students.
"Not every child needs a traditional pathway. We have to find ways to provide students more opportunities to be reached and taught so that they can achieve their highest potential," said Jennifer Garrett, principal at a virtual elementary school.
She said that her school is open to students across Knox County, giving them a place to learn together.
"They get to see each other in a different capacity than they ever would. And they get to realize, 'I'm just like you. There might be differences, but I really am just like you,'" she said.
However, educators said that relationships between students and teachers found inside a classroom can be almost impossible to replace. To keep some of that relationship together, Charcee Day said she is going out of her way to make sure her students still feel special.
"I do a prize truck, where I go out and visit the students at their houses and reward them. I put signs in their yard to encourage them," said Day.
As with any new venture, teachers and students are bound to face challenges. However, Garrett said that since students already have a year of virtual learning experiences, they can acclimate to virtual learning this year too.
"One of the greatest challenges that we faced last year was that it was new, and we didn't have that opportunity to really prepare our students," said Garrett.
While the new virtual schools are not approaching education in the traditional way, the educators' missions are no different. They said they are doing whatever they can for the students they serve.