Williamson County Schools Deputy Director Jason Golden spoke to a full auditorium at Centennial High School on Tuesday, April 3, 2018/Brooke Wanser.
By BROOKE WANSER
As of Wednesday morning, students in Williamson County high schools will be able to register for online classes of a similar rigor to the courses they participate in on campus.
During an informational session at Centennial High School on Tuesday night, Williamson County Schools Deputy Director Jason Golden spoke to a packed auditorium of about 300.
Dr. Charles Farmer, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary schools, spoke about the 18 courses available. They will include traditional core classes like English, mathematics and social studies, as well as lifetime wellness and physical education.
Students will be required to do a portion of the work on campus, and will be expected to meet two to six times monthly with their teacher and class. However, Farmer admitted that “it’s still a gray area” at the moment.
Farmer said online classes allow for additional credits, flexible scheduling, retaking courses, and addressing varied learning styles.
He also cited research, saying that blended learning, which includes some time spent on campus during the online course, is vital to success.
Though students can now register for the classes, the school board needs to vote one more time in favor of the courses before they are approved. Once approved, there will only be 500 spaces open for high school students to enroll.
Farmer said each child would receive a number upon registration. If any course had more students registered than room in the class, the district would utilize a lottery system to randomly select the students. Classes will be capped at 35 students.
Coursework would cover the same material as regular classes, be aligned with Tennessee’s education standards, and be taught by trained county teachers.
For the upcoming school year, students will be allowed to register for four courses, though they are restricted to taking two online.
There will be a 15 day grace period where a student can drop the online course and return to his or her zoned school’s course. There is no cost for the online course.
Currently, the school accepts online credits through Florida Virtual Campus. The virtual school gives students pass or fail grades.
By the fall, and once the courses are approved by the school board, they will be the only online curricula accepted in Williamson County.
Farmer, formerly a high school principal in the district, encouraged parents to strongly consider whether or not their child was prepared to take a course that would require more self-discipline than a traditional class.
“You’ve got to be willing to advocate for yourselves, students,” he said. “If it just sounds good to jump in and take an online course, from the data, these are all important components for you to think about.”
He said hard copies of an online readiness rubric were available for students to use as a checklist.
“We want to maintain WCS quality in everything we do,” Golden said.
He pointed out that some of the private providers for online courses had previously “left students on their own to the very end.”
“We’re not going to leave your students hanging out there to dry on their own, but it’s not going to be nearly as tight as it might be in a classroom setting,” Golden said.
“This is a big endeavor, it’s something different for us, and we don’t have all the answers tonight,” Farmer said. “And I know you want all the answers.”
Handouts from the meeting will be available online at Williamson County Schools InFocus, and registration forms can be handed in to counselors at schools.