Starting July 1, the administrative side of the Polk County adult education program will be handled by Bradley County Schools.
Bradley County Schools supervisor of adult education Zoe Renfro said counties that no longer have a center were not losing service; rather, one office would just be covering multiple counties.
Many of the details of how the combined center, now termed Service Area 16, will operate are still being worked out.
“This is all very, very preliminary. There is nothing written in stone at this point,” Renfro said.
Adult education centers around the state are funded through U.S. Department of Education grants to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Renfro said federal budget cuts led to looking at limiting the administrative costs.
“They were looking for ways to be efficient and still effective,” Renfro said during a recent presentation to the Bradley County Board of Education.
Along with these changes, this funding became a competitive grant process. Renfro said the majority of funding goes to personnel. How much funding the local service area will receive is unknown because some of those whose grants were not approved are questioning the results, Renfro said.
Total amounts will be finalized next month.
“There will not be any added cost to Bradley County to take on Polk County because Polk County is going to provide some in-kind match. … They are going to provide more than their share of in-kind match,” Renfro said.
The Polk County center had been serving approximately 100 students a year, Renfro said.
“We’ve been serving between 400 and 500 students a year,” Renfro said.
So far this fiscal year, which ends June 30, Bradley County Adult Education had 141 students complete their GED.
Renfro said the school usually averages around 130 a year.
“It’s very important ... to provide educational opportunities for the parents of our children,” Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said in the meeting.
Polk County will have the same adult education opportunities it has had in the past. Renfro said services would be offered in the same location, and most likely with the same personnel. The only difference is the administrative aspect of the program will be handled in Bradley County.
Details will be finalized before July 1 because Bradley County Schools will be required to enter into a contract with the Tennessee Department of Workforce Development to offer service in the area.
The centers first found out about consolidation in January. Bradley County schools completed the grant application in February.
Other major changes are coming to adult education across the nation as changes are made to GED requirements.
Starting Jan. 1, the cost of the test will increase to $125. The test is also switching to an electronic format.
Centers for adult education are encouraging those without a high school diploma to complete the GED test before the changes take effect.