Knox County Virtual School: A premier school

Susan EspirituOur Town Youth

There certainly can’t be many of us who haven’t had to learn something virtually since the pandemic. I was teaching college classes and had to switch on a dime to virtual classes with no experience with the several virtual formats required within a week.

Schools and teachers learned how to deliver a virtual classroom format for students during the pandemic, so students could stay somewhat connected, and many found it provided the alternative learning option they wanted to continue pursuing after the pandemic released its hold on us.

Knox County Schools now has a premier K-12 virtual school, and the history was not by happenstance as one might think.

The Knox County School district actually started the Quest program years before Covid-19, maybe as early as 2012, and offered some key high school courses online that students couldn’t take at their school.

Fast forward to 2020 with Covid-19, and the district started three online programs, one for each grade band. With the success of the three online programs, Jennifer Garrett and LeAnne Carrington applied to make all three programs into virtual schools in the state of Tennessee.

In 2022, Jennifer Garrett took over all three schools as principal, applying to consolidate the schools to create the first 1-12 school in Knox County

The school is actually housed on two campuses at Karns Middle and Holston Middle schools serving grades 1-12 with the majority of students in the upper grades.

The students are taught with mainly synchronous instruction, but with a day of asynchronous for high school and half a day of asynchronous for middle school.

During synchronous instruction students and teachers engage in real-time interaction and participate in activities simultaneously at scheduled class sessions to engage in learning activities.

Asynchronous instruction refers to a method of teaching and learning where students and teachers do not need to be present or engage in real-time interaction.

One difference from pandemic virtual school to present is the students now have events such as a middle school formal, prom, fall festival and field trips.

Principal Garrett says, “Parents have stated that they feel more connected to where students are in the learning and have the best communication with staff that they have ever had. Many of our students come to us because they didn’t have good experiences in a brick-and-mortar setting. They are also students who have experienced high levels of anxiety and need a different path. While many people think virtual is not the place for students like this, we have absolutely proved them wrong!”

The student success has translated into their annual test scores too, with the school receiving top-level achievement and growth scores for middle grades and two graduating classes with the class consisting of 49 students earning $1.9 million in financial aid and offerings.

Garrett says, “I am very proud of the program we have built and the amazing gains our students are making!”

There is a sequel to this story! You read the quote from Jennifer Garrett, principal of this virtual school, and her story comes next week, and to quote Al Jolson, “You ain’t heard nothing yet! “

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to


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