051321_dnr_RosettaStone

In March, North Carolina-based digital language learning company IXL Learning announced it had acquired Rosetta Stone.

Local Rosetta Stone employees have been laid off, according to Brian Shull, city economic development director.

“We’ve not heard numbers yet, so we’re still waiting for additional information from the company,” Shull said Wednesday.

In March, North Carolina-based digital language learning company IXL Learning announced it had acquired Rosetta Stone.

In a Wednesday email, Eric Bates, an IXL spokesperson, declined to provide a timeline for when layoffs will occur or say how many people will lose their jobs and how many workers will remain employed in Harrisonburg once the changes are in place.

“There were personnel changes as we integrated Rosetta Stone into IXL, and we continue to evaluate how we can best incorporate the Harrisonburg office into our future plans,” Bates said in the email.

Rosetta Stone was established in Harrisonburg in 1992. The company has seen its local employment dwindle over recent years and is now headquartered in Arlington.

In September, the company had 179 local employees, according to a previous interview with Shull. The company had employed roughly 500 workers locally in 2012, but the figure dropped to roughly 300 by the end of 2015. Rosetta Stone announced the closure of its county distribution center in 2017.

Sources called the announcement of the layoffs inside the business “abrupt” and said they were “widespread.”

The Virginia Employment Commission has been notified and will be posting information about the layoffs through its Virginia Workforce Network’s Rapid Response program system today or Friday, according to Joyce Fogg of VEC. The program coordinates support for laid-off workers and companies to minimize the impact of job loss.

City Councilwoman Laura Dent, who has worked in the tech sector, was laid off by the company twice — once in 2012 and then again as a part-time employee in March 2020.

“I know how volatile the tech industry is,” she said Wednesday.

In 2012, city staff, elected officials and Dent worked together to try to find more opportunities for the other laid-off Rosetta Stone workers so they could stay in the Valley.

“Is there something similar we can do today? And this is just me thinking off the top of my head, but I was really impressed” with the city’s actions, Dent said.

Rosetta Stone is only one of many large acquisitions IXL Learning has closed on in recent years for companies that also offer digital learning services. IXL Learning was founded in 1998 and is used by one in five American students.

The Rosetta Stone purchase came after IXL Learning also obtained Wyzant, the country’s largest marketplace for online tutoring, according to Yahoo! Finance. A year before acquiring Rosetta Stone, IXL Learning bought Vocabulary.com. The firm acquired Education.com, used by 23 million teachers and parents, in 2019 and the year prior, purchased ABCya in 2018. ABCya produces educational games.

Shenandoah Valley Partnership Director Jay Langston said the layoffs carry additional weight since the area is trying to grow its employment in tech jobs.

“It’s a devastating blow in that regard because we are poised for additional growth in this sector,” he said.

The state has been trying to increase the number of tech jobs available in the state, but most of the growth has been in Northern Virginia, according to Langston.

“This is an important sector for not only what [Rosetta Stone has] represented in the past, but for our future as well,” Langston said.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @iamIanMunro

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