Henry County Schools recently announced it will offer a new virtual school program for students, called “Impact Academy.”
The academy is a non-traditional schooling option, offering the four core subject classes, Advanced Placement courses, and many electives through online coursework.
The school district has been investigating the possibilities of a full-time virtual school program for a few years,” said Steve Thompson, Henry’s Impact Academy administrator. Thompson said the school system has offered virtual courses for seven years, but the courses had been supplemental in nature, meaning high school students would take a course that is not offered in their regular school schedule.
“We have developed the expertise over these years that enables us to take this next step to offer full-time virtual learning to interested students and families,” he added. “Because of the evolution in our understanding of virtual learning, and the advancement in technology, [the school district] is well-positioned to offer this program of choice.”
Thompson said the option provides greater flexibility in time, and place of instruction, in accordance with feedback given by members of the community.
“Over the past few years, online learning options for students have grown dramatically,” he said. “The growth has occurred nationally, as well as in Georgia, and in Henry County.
“Our community continues to express the need for flexible and innovative ways for students to receive an education,” he said. “We believe this opportunity meets the criteria and needs of many students and families. [And] by earning state public school funding (FTE) and re-aligning existing budgets, Impact Academy will be cost-neutral to the school system.”
School officials said the academy will be available for students seeking a full-time learning option. It also will provide an option for students to take electives through regular classes at their home school.
“We will have a limited capacity this first year [of 220 students,]” noted Thompson. “We will have four full-time teachers and several ‘adjunct’ teachers to serve Impact Academy students.
“Many factors make us believe our community is ready for this option in educating their children,” he continued. “Henry County has a large number of students participating in Georgia’s largest school, Georgia Cyber Academy. Additionally, we have 13 percent of students who are either home schooled or private schooled, that may find Impact Academy a good option.”
Dual-enrollment courses through local colleges, and virtual dual enrollment, are also options through Impact Academy and provide more possibilities for students pursuing college credits.
“We will serve ninth-and tenth-grade students during the 2012-13 school year, but we have plans to add eleventh-and-twelfth grades in 2013-14,” said Brian Blanton, co-administrator of Impact Academy.
Students enrolled in the academy will be able to participate in extracurricular activities at their zoned home school, including athletics, clubs, proms, and graduations.
The academy will offer field-study opportunities, in which real-world experiences are tied into the coursework. Students, too, will be able to interact in a traditional social setting with members of the academy’s staff through the field-study experiences, after-hours workshops for college and career guidance, and tutoring with teachers.
Thompson said applying for admittance should be carefully considered. “Students who are well-organized and self-motivated will find Impact Academy the best fit,” he said. “We know this option is not for every student, but we know that many students thrive in an online-learning environment.”
He said the virtual school will reflect the structure found in regular high school programs, in that it will have frequent checks for understanding, projects, and exams. Final exams will be required at the end of each term, and courses that require an “End-of-Course” test will be required of Impact Academy students.
Thompson pointed to a community information meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 29, at 7 p.m. The meeting, to be held at the Henry County Board of Education, is open to anyone interested in learning more about Impact Academy.
“We are committed to providing a high-quality education for our students,” said Henry County Schools Superintendent Ethan Hildreth. “Because students learn in a variety of ways, we want to meet the educational needs of our families and community by providing multiple learning options.”
To learn more about Impact Academy, visit www.henry.k12.ga.us/ia.