Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Billy Stair ()
Communications and External Relations


UT-Battelle gives $450,000 for distance learning

Great Schools Partnership President Buzz Thomas (right) shakes hands with ORNL Director Thom Mason (left) and Knox County Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre following the announcement of UT-Battelle's $450,000 gift to establish distance learning programs at area high schools.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Jan. 21, 2011 — UT-Battelle announced today a gift of $450,000 to Knox County's Great Schools Partnership to fund distance learning programs in science and math for high schools in Knox and surrounding counties. The program is designed to help bolster student achievement despite a severe shortage of teachers trained for many science and math courses.

The announcement at Bearden High School came from Thom Mason, CEO of UT-Battelle and director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He presented the gift to Knox County Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre and Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, president of the Great Schools Partnership.

The Great Schools Partnership is working with the Knox County Schools on a variety of initiatives, including development of a distance-learning network that will support the county's 13 high schools and those high schools in surrounding counties that wish to use distance learning as a supplement to traditional classroom instruction. The program will emphasize science and math courses—including hard-to-staff subjects such as physics—that currently are not available in all area schools. For example, one teacher of an Advanced Placement Physics course could simultaneously teach students at a half-dozen schools.

Mason said UT-Battelle's gift "represents the kind of partnership that will be needed to move education forward in a period of limited resources. We must be creative, and we must realize that technology provides the chance for teaching and learning to take place across county lines."

In accepting the gift, McIntyre said, "We are thrilled that UT-Battelle is partnering with the Knox County Schools in this distance learning initiative, which will allow high-quality instruction in special subjects to be shared more broadly. Partnering with this world-class national laboratory will provide extraordinary opportunities for our students and will be instrumental in ensuring our children are prepared for the 21st Century world."

Thomas said that over the next three years the distance learning program would create in each Knoxville high school a room equipped to send and receive interactive videoconferencing instruction. He emphasized that instruction would not be limited to high school teachers, and would likely include interactive lectures from faculty at the University of Tennessee and scientists at ORNL.

Learning in the new program will not be limited to live instruction. Courses will be recorded and archived to help schools schedule classes and enable students to have access to teaching in the evenings. Courses will be accredited by the United States Distance Learning Association.

UT-Battelle has donated more than $7 million to science and math-related programs, including equipment for approximately 50 science labs, starting pay bonuses for science and math teachers, and scholarships to the University of Tennessee for outstanding students who major in science and math.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.