CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- All high schools are not created equal, and that is certainly the case in Hamilton County. Enrollment ranges from the low hundreds at schools like Lookout Valley and Sale Creek into the low thousands at East Hamilton and Soddy-Daisy.
As a result, the larger schools offer classes, many of them advanced, that smaller schools cannot provide.
At Central High School in Harrison, teacher Edward Potter shares college level, Advanced Placement statistics lessons with 29 eager seniors each day in his own classroom. But two other students are also taking this class.
Zen Zhang and Sri Medisetti are at the smaller Center for Creative Arts High School, thirteen miles away, watching and listening to Mr. Potter on the big screen. Medisetti made the long drive from CCA to Central each day last year, but is grateful she doesn't have to this year.
"I save money on gas, and don't have to spend time on the road during the school day," she said. Best of all she said, "It's free."
"Their school was unable to offer this course, so thanks to this technology we can teach them," Potter said, "Even though they're miles and miles away."
Thirteen miles away, to be exact, or a twenty-five minute drive, which the CCA students no longer have to make. On their advanced college track, they have to keep moving ahead with more challenging math courses, and this is the only way they can do it.
The technology described by Potter as "similar to FaceTime on an iPhone, but on a larger scale," is available, at every Hamilton County high school. If the students and teacher are willing, any advanced class can be in the distance learning program.
For now, this is the only such class in Hamilton County, being beamed to another school. But as word gets out, administrators like Central principal Finley King believe it will be far more widespread.
"I would like to see Hamilton County do a lot more of this, with the best classes going from campus-wide to community-wide," King said. "Some of the magnet schools have programs we cannot offer here, but with the distance learning technology, if students want it, we can provide it."
"Distance learning is not the best scenario," King concluded. "Certainly it is best if a teacher is in a classroom with students, face to face. But that's not economically possible in every case, so this is the next best thing. And we're proving that it works."