What we know about Florida Virtual School before a Knox County Board of Education vote

With about 30% of Knox County Schools students opting for virtual learning this fall, the district in considering using an outside group named Florida Virtual School to make distance learning possible.

The Knox County Board of Education will decide Wednesday whether to approve a $1 million to $1.5 million contract with the organization. Florida Virtual School will help fill in the gaps created by Knox County teacher vacancies. 

Here’s what we know so far, based on a draft contract on the district’s website: 

Why is an outside system under consideration? 

With a summertime decision to offer a virtual option to families as the pandemic surged in Knox County, the district had to move quickly to figure out how to handle this new way of teaching. 

Superintendent Bob Thomas said the new agreement will provide the equivalent of 55-65 teaching positions, but those figures don’t directly translate to Knox County teacher vacancies. That estimate is based off calculating students and class sections.

“We are continuing to make every effort to identify and hire KCS teachers to help us with the virtual learning program. It’s important to note that more than 95 percent of the virtual courses will be taught by our own teachers,” said Carly Harrington, a Knox County Schools spokeswoman.

Last week, Thomas said there were 159 vacancies including certified and non-certified positions. Knox County Schools has not provided updated vacancy figures. 

If the district doesn’t accept the contract, however, Thomas said he estimates there are about 1,400 students who wouldn’t get the virtual programming they enrolled in. That’s about 7.8% of the students currently enrolled in virtual learning.

How much will the agreement cost?

It is estimated to cost Knox County Schools $1 million to $1.5 million for the fall semester and is not to exceed $3 million for the 2020-2021 school year.

Florida Virtual School will update the district monthly on charges.

The contract is for one year and would expire on Aug. 9, 2021.

What is the Florida Virtual School all about? 

The organization’s website says its e-Learning model was “founded in 1997 and was the country’s first, state-wide Internet-based public high school.”

Now the program serves students in grades K-12 and also works with school districts around the country to provide e-Learning. 

Florida Virtual School is an online curriculum with 190 courses, according to its website. 

Employees must pass a criminal background check.

Who else uses Florida Virtual School?

Metro Nashville Public Schools has used Florida Virtual School since at least 2014. Metro Nashville Public Schools expanded its contract with the company because it decided to teach all students virtually for at least one month.

When will the school board decide? 

The Knox County Board of Education will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday to vote on the contract. The meeting is located in the Andrew Johnson Building at 912 S. Gay St. and will be streamed live at knoxnews.com and facebook.com/knoxnews. 



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