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Academy proposed for HVHS

A proposed plan for Hardin Valley High School deviates from traditional high schools in Knox County, and at least two Board members are in favor of the changes.

Sallee Reynolds, HVHS principal, and her team including George Ashe, assistant principal, and Anne Troutman, guidance counselor, presented the plan to the Knox County Board of Education, Monday, Aug. 20. The group suggested the school be broken up into four academies: Liberal Arts; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Health Sciences; and Law, Bus-iness and Public Affairs.

To graduate from one of these academies, a student must earn 30 credit hours, instead of the county-required 28 and a 3.0 grade point average, and complete a senior research project and 50 hours of community service, Reynolds said. Those who do not want to graduate from an academy would be required to meet current county guidelines.

“What we want[ed] to do is present our plan for academic excellence for the schools. We’ll begin with Hardin Valley High School,” she said.

Thomas Deakins, BOE District 6, said, “I’m absolutely, 100 percent behind her. The academies address specific areas, they allow students to focus in those areas while at the same time, if a student doesn’t want to do that and just wants a comprehensive high school curriculum, they have that opportunity too. So it’s not win or lose, it’s win, win because if you don’t go the academy route you’ve still gotten a great education.”

Karen Carson, District 5 representative and chair for KCBOE, said she also likes the plan.

“I think it’s exactly where we need to go. We have talked and met about reforming our schools, particularly our high schools, for at least two years,” she added.

“I definitely think the idea of breaking these large high schools into smaller groupings makes sense. I really like the idea that they took four different academies and gave each one a career technical and a college prep focus, so that it’s not just your elite kids who can go to this school. Any child can find an area they have an interest in, if they’re willing to work. So it meets the needs of the whole range of students who could be attending there,” she said. “I like that there is a challenge, to those who wish to take it, to go above and beyond what the state and Knox County Schools requires for graduation.”

Board members, however, do have some concerns moving forward with this plan, Deakins said, including the cost and “can it be rolled out to other high schools. The answer to that, I think, is yes, because they really utilized Knox County’s curriculum and only added one more course.”

Reynolds recommended the name of the school be changed to Hardin Valley Academy, but Deakins said he did not agree.

“What happens to the students who decide they don’t want to go the academy route, they want to go to a comprehensive high school and they graduate from Hardin Valley Academy? If that’s the only worry we have, then I guess we’re O-K, but it’s still something to think about,” he added.

Carson said a concern is perception in the rest of the county. “I think it’s always difficult to bring something new to West Knox. I think there’s always the perception throughout the rest of the county that the West Knox schools are the elite schools. The truth is the amount of money spent per student in the West Knox schools is less than everywhere else.”


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