The Hamilton County Schools have launched both a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and a virtual school.
Supt. Rick Smith said the STEM school is in 17,000 square feet of space at the former Olan Mills Building at Chattanooga State.
He said 75 students began the year armed with IPads. "It will be a very, very different way of delivery of instruction," he said.
The virtual school will be attached to the Middle High School.
Mr. Smith said consultant Debbie Crabtree is helping launch the school, which for the first time has a definite location. Dr. Sonja Rich is the school director.
He said it was necessary for the county to set up its own virtual school site because the state has eliminated its virtual school program. But he said the state will pay for students who take part in the program, including those from other counties.
Bradley County has started a similar program, it was stated.
Board member David Testerman said the program can be effective especially for students who may not interact well with other students or some with disabilities who have trouble maneuvering around a brick and mortar school.
Mr. Smith said instructors will be hired to work with the students, and the number hired will depend on the number of students and their specific course work.
This program will offer "a full-time online opportunity for students, year round credit recovery for our students, blended learning options, and enrollment opportunities for out of county students. The school will only enroll 50 current HCDE students in grade 6-12. There will be no cap on the enrollment of out of district or home schooled students grades K-12."
Supt. Smith said, "We feel this will give our community another option to educate their children. The virtual school will help keep state and local tax dollars in our community and may bring in dollars from other district. We believe this arrangement will allow Hamilton County to become the leader in online education for our region."