Texas Tech University is taking a step into East Texas with a new virtual school that will begin offering classes to area students this fall.
The program, which is a partnership between the Lubbock-based university and Longview ISD, will offer online and print courses to students in kindergarten through 12th grade in a variety of subjects. It is known as TTU K-12.
“It’s a historic day for the students in Longview ISD,” Superintendent James Wilcox said at a signing ceremony Tuesday. “It will allow our students, in not just Longview ISD but in the Longview area, to take any Texas Tech course for kindergarten through the 12th grade. We’re hoping this is going to lead on to higher ed courses after students graduate high school.”
The arrangement was made official Tuesday with the signing of a memorandum of understanding at a news conference at the Longview ISD Education Support Center.
Wilcox said he did not have answers to any further questions at the news conference and left. He also was unavailable to answer questions later Tuesday.
Texas Tech Vice Provost Melanie Hart said she liked what she saw at Longview ISD and in the Longview community.
“When I learned about what commitment this community has to K-12 (education), I was extremely impressed,” Hart said. “The fact that you’ve gone in and built new schools to make sure the students have the best facilities they can possibly have, gone in and had money to build a Montessori school in the pre-K area and to be allowed that to be offered for free, that’s very impressive.”
Hart said students can take any of the classes TTU K-12 offers, from basic English to some coding and other technical courses. Students may enroll full time in TTU K-12 or take supplemental courses.
Students who are not Longview ISD students also will be able to take the courses, she said.
“If they don’t want to go through Longview ISD, if they just want to go through TTU K-12 directly, they can go to our website and register for classes,” Hart said. “It will have a fee associated with it if they don’t go through Longview ISD.”
District spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said the particulars of costs still are being determined.
Currently, Longview ISD covers the cost of any Career Technology Education course taught by a university. For the Texas Tech partnership, Ross said the district is working on what that cost looks like and how it will be handled.
Other online courses’ costs usually are covered by families, Ross said. But she said the district has not decided how to offset that cost for the K-12 partnership.
“We have not worked out that detail yet,” she said. “But those conversations are being had, and we hope to have this ready for anyone inside and outside the district soon. Education should be free for everyone. Education should be available for anyone who wants it, and this is a new way of education in East Texas.”
Students across the state can attend the Hallsville ISD virtual school, which just finished its first year. Those virtual school students graduate with a Hallsville ISD diploma.
Ross said those who graduate from TTU K-12 get a diploma from TTU K-12, but the district is working on a way to incorporate a Longview ISD diploma.
“It serves as a great pathway into Texas Tech, if a student wants to go that route,” she said. “It’s another way to open up doors for students that might need something different.”
How the partnership came about is unclear. However, David Choy, Longview High School class of 1978 alumnus and owner of GZ Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar, said he knows Dr. Tedd Mitchell, chancellor of Texas Tech University System and Longview High School class of 1980 graduate.
Choy, who was in the audience at the news conference Tuesday, said he had some involvement in the TTU K-12 partnership.
“My involvement is an idea that came to my friends and I on how to make Longview a better place to live, and we started talking about higher education, and I happen to know some people from Texas Tech,” he said.
Choy said staff members for TTU K-12 will be housed at the old Foster Middle School on Green Street.
That building serves as the Early Graduation High School for the district.
Ross said she has not heard the facility will be used for TTU K-12 staff.
“My understanding is this is online, and if they need to do something via video conferencing, it would be done at the high school,” she said.