Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed President and CEO of Bridgeway Academy Jessica Parnell to the newsmaker line to discuss the dramatic increase in Bridgeway’s homeschool enrollment and parents’ uneasiness with ever-changing mandates in K-12 schools.
Leahy: We are joined by our good friend, Jessica Parnell, CEO of Edovate Learning and Bridgeway Academy. Good morning to you, Jessica.
Parnell: Good morning. Glad to be here.
Leahy: So you’re a home school group. Been around for 30 plus years. Your family has been involved in this company for some time. Is that right?
Parnell: That’s right. My parents started the company. It’s Bridgeway Academy in 1989. We have been continuing to serve homeschoolers since that time.
Leahy: And so you provide a curriculum to home school parents basically?
Parnell: Correct. Curriculum and services where parents can actually enroll fully in our academy. And we handle them through the year. Make sure they’re doing well.
They have the support they need, and they have the records they need to go forward into college or back to school if that’s their choice.
Leahy: Outstanding. So here is the big question for you. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, (Laughter) but K-12 public schools around the country, half of them have gone insane, in my view. (Parnell chuckles) And you laugh because that’s probably not the first time you’ve heard that. (Chuckles)
Parnell: Not at all.
Leahy: My guess is your phones have been lighting up at Bridgeway Academy because people are sick and tired of tinpot dictator, left-wing lunatic school boards. That’s my words, not yours.
Putting these non-science-based mask mandates in for K-12 kids, which, I don’t think that science does promote that. That’s my view.
But I think a lot of parents feel that way. What kind of increase in interest have you seen over the past month or so as a result of these growing mandates?
Parnell: Yes, we’ve seen quite an increase, more than double from about a month ago, very much on par with what we were seeing last year. And I think what’s interesting is that it’s not just the mask mandates. It’s also the uncertainty.
We’ve already seen three states where there’s shifting students to virtual learning that’s creating a lot of that same lack of consistency throughout the year for students. But, yes, the phones are lighting up.
Parents are saying enough is enough. We are taking control, and we’re going to see the incredible benefits of home education without the, I guess you’d call it entanglement of the school districts’ program.
Leahy: Here in Middle Tennessee, the Metro Nashville Public School Board voted eight to one to force mask mandates on kids K-12 last week. And then this week, you might have seen a little bit of this on the news in Williamson County, which is the affluent suburban county just south of Nashville.
The school board there also run by a bunch of left-wing lunatics, for the most part, voted seven to three to impose a mask mandate on every elementary school student there. Well, parents aren’t happy about that.
I’m guessing in our listening audience, there are parents right now of kids who are in K-12 who are thinking, I got to get my kids out of this propaganda institute. If they go to Homeschoolacademy.com. Is that the one you recommend people go to?
Parnell: Yes, that is correct.
Leahy: Homeschoolacademy.com. And right at the very top, it says, join us for our Getting Started Homeschooling Webinar Tuesday, August 17. That’s next week.
Parnell: Correct. And then we also have an open house on Thursday the 19th. So then they can join us for that as well.
Leahy: So they can just go in and they hit the sign-up button. And then what happens?
Parnell: They just simply sign up and we make sure to keep you reminded to show up for very valuable information. I know there are a lot of questions that parents have about taking that step into home education.
So the getting started is a fantastic one to answer those questions. And then our open house is a great one to get to know what we do at Bridgeway and how we provide that support so that you have peace of mind that you’re doing things well.
And you get to hear some of the stories of the successes of students whose parents have taken control and been giving those students that freedom to really flourish and shine.
Leahy: Jessica, how long is this webinar that you’re hosting at Homeschoolacademy.com? How long is it this coming Tuesday?
Parnell: It’s probably 45 minutes when you’re not in Q & A time.
Leahy: 45 minutes. Just a brief introduction to Bridgeway’s program. Do you have a capacity problem on the webinar? Are you going to be oversubscribed for it?
Parnell: We can take quite a few listeners, but we do have backup plans if we run into that. If we have capacity issues to date, we have a high subscription because you are seeing a significant number of parents saying enough is enough. And I think part of that is from last year’s record, the learning loss from their kids, and they saw the uncertainty, and they see that coming again, and they are saying no. We are taking control and making sure our kids are growing this year.
Leahy: The reports came out here in Tennessee, and the learning loss was huge for kids in K-12 public schools here in Tennessee. Dramatic, I think. Huge declines in terms of their performance, like 30 percent below the previous year, maybe more than that, just terrible, terrible.
And I think you’re right. I think all of the signs indicate that right now they’re saying you’ve got to wear a mask. I think there are many places moving towards just that virtual learning, which is a debacle. You said three states have already indicated they’re going to do that. Is that right?
Leahy: Which are those three states so far?
Parnell: So far, schools in Mississippi, Indiana, and Georgia have returned to virtual for a test period. But we’ve been here, done that last year.
Leahy: Been there done that. And why does anybody think that public school virtual learning, which has been an utter debacle, why do they think this year will be better than last year? It won’t. I don’t think.
Parnell: I think parents have woken up and they’re saying it’s not, it’s not going to be any better. And we have the freedom to home educate. We have the freedom to take control. And to that, we’re going to exercise that freedom.
Leahy: So just to be clear, any Tennessee parent right now listening to this program can go to Homeschoolacademy.com. They can sign up for this webinar, which you’re going to host on Tuesday.
They can learn about homeschooling. You’re legally authorized in the state of Tennessee and every other state in the Union, right?
Parnell: Yes we are. And internationally as well and fully accredited. So if the student graduates from us, they have a diploma, the equivalent of a private school diploma. They can go anywhere they want to go.
Leahy: What’s the first step? So the parent goes to this webinar – and how much does it cost to sign up for the program? And what are the options for parents?
Parnell: There are a host of options with Bridgeway Academy as little as $20 a month to take advantage of our Elephango Home School Resource Center, which is filled with materials, lessons, and learning for students. Up to $250 a month for our full-service hand-holding all curriculum, record-keeping programs, and everything in between.
Leahy: Is that for a full year, twelve months, or for nine months?
Parnell: Nine months.
Leahy: Well, that’s not very much money, really. So it’s nine times $250. So it’s $2,250 a year.
Parnell: Some of the programs. Correct.
Leahy: For the high-end programs. If my kids were doing this, that’s the one that I would do. Jessica Parnell with Bridgeway Academy at Homeschoolacademy.com. Thanks for joining us and good luck this academic year.
Parnell: Thank you.
Listen to the second hour here:
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