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Hawkins schools praised for Virtual Academy program at national seminar

Jeff Bobo • Jan 18, 2020 at 12:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County school system was praised this week during an American Association of School Administrators seminar in Georgia for its Virtual Academy and the flexibility it creates for students in CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson attended the AASA Youth Apprenticeship Conference in Savannah.

The AASA paid room and travel expenses for superintendents who applied for and were accepted to the conference, which was intended to inform attendees about successful youth apprenticeship programs across the United States.

“We are doing the right things”

During discussions at the conference, Hawkins County was applauded for creating its Hawkins County Virtual Academy, which provides flexibility for students to participate in CTE and apprenticeship programs while completing regular curriculum requirements online.

Attending the seminar were superintendents and staff from California, Chicago, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Illinois, and South Dakota.

Hixson told the Times News Friday that the recognition Hawkins County received during the seminar was “huge reinforcement of our current direction.”

“It’s great acknowledgment that we are doing the right things by offering Hawkins County Virtual Academy and increased creative internship- and work-based learning opportunities for our students,” Hixson added.

“Flexibility is through online classes”

For the past several years, Hawkins County industries have offered students internships and apprenticeships through the CTE program.

This school year, Hawkins County Schools launched the Virtual Academy, which allows students to study at their own pace and on their own schedule via online lessons at no charge. The Virtual Academy has about 60 students enrolled. 

The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System hosted the conference, highlighting its success in placing students in maritime, shipping, and school system positions through their student apprenticeship programs.

Attendees heard from local industry representatives, parents, and students who participate in these successful apprenticeship placements.

“During small group discussions, it was apparent that one of the most critical aspects of successful apprenticeship and intern programs is student scheduling flexibility,” Hixson said. “If students are to be successfully trained in job-related skills and successful in completing high school requirements at the same time, it is critical each student be given flexibility. One of the best ways to go about creating this flexibility is through online classes.”

“Growing our own future workforce”

“With this program firmly in place and growing, along with the CTE program’s strength, Hawkins County is well poised for growth in youth apprentice and intern opportunities within and surrounding Hawkins County,” Hixson added.

Among the information Hixson brought home from the seminar was the idea of creating internship and apprentice programs in-house.

“The coolest thing I learned is that Savannah Public Schools have opened up numerous internships for students within their school system,” Hixson said. “We definitely have been wanting to do this. Both teaching and non-certified positions. Growing our own future workforce made up of our own students.”

Hixson added, “Hawkins County Schools is excited about future opportunities to ensure each graduate is enrolled in post high school education, employed in well-paying employment, or enlisted in one of our nation’s amazing military branches.”