SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - The Innovation Academy in Sullivan County has gained national attention, winning several awards for their academics and is the first of its kind in Northeast Tennessee.
On Friday, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Hoffman toured the school. They told us they are impressed. "I think it's great for the kids to have a chance to do something that is different, and for there to be different options for kids so that those who want to learn in a project-based environment can do that," says Hoffman.
That's exactly what the Innovation Academy is -- it's known for its project-based learning in science, technology, engineering, and math, or what some call the STEM program. "It integrates all the curriculum in the fact that you're studying social studies, studying the sciences, and studying math without knowing you're doing it," adds Ramsey.
The school was being maintained with a joint partnership between Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools, but the Kingsport City School Board decided to not extend an agreement with the Innovation Academy after this school year.
That decision left Sullivan County to make tough decisions, "I don't know the future of Innovation Academy and we've just worked so hard and we've been so excited," adds Innovation Academy Principal Sandy Watkins.
Earlier this month the Sullivan County School Board voted to move the school from its own separate location to a new one, which will be in Holston Middle School. That has Principal Sandy Watkins upset. "We were very disappointed. This is all about the students. We need to keep the engagement, the exciting problem-based and project-based activities going, and teach the way Innovation Academy knows how to teach," she said.
Ramsey tells us Friday's tour was set up before the county announced plans to move the school, but he wants to see if there is anything the he can do to help. "[We're talking to] Superintendent Yennie and the school board to find out exactly how much they do need. I think there may be private funds out there, foundations out there to keep this going," Ramsey said.
Both Ramsey and Hoffman agree learning environments like the Innovation Academy are important to students in Tennessee.
Watkins tells us even though the school is moving, they will continue to provide the project-based learning the school offers and give their students the best education they can.