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'If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and we'll do something different' | Knox County offers in-person option amid concerns as spring semester begins

KCS went all virtual the week before Christmas break. Now three weeks later, an in-person option is back on the table.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Thousands of Knox County students will head back to the classroom Tuesday.

Knox County Schools gave parents a choice in November for this semester on whether they would have their student attend in-person or virtual.

Even with cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising in the county, the district says they've got a safety plan in place.

KCS went all virtual the week before Christmas break. Now three weeks later, an in-person option is back on the table.

"We have to give it an opportunity," said superintendent Bob Thomas who cites the December decision was made due to fewer teachers.

"Our teacher attendance rate was down considerably." That rate is now back up to almost 97%. "We're in a better position operationally than we were before."

But what about the surge in cases? Or students traveling over the holidays? Is that a safety concern? 

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Thomas said classrooms are safe. 

"We know the transmission among kids seems to be lower and practicing safety guidelines are in the classrooms."

Masks, hand washing, temperature checks and sanitizing materials are all precautions in place. He asks for parent's trust. 

"Just asking for parents to trust us that we're going to continue providing safety measures we did in the fall," said Thomas. "If I'm wrong I'm wrong, we'll do something different."

Experts are worried about children's mental health and Thomas said they're focusing on just that, mental and emotional support. So they'll offer in-person learning as long as time allows.  

"I feel we owe it to the students, parents to give it an opportunity," he said. 

Thomas said teachers do have the option to teach from home if they're quarantining and they won't have to use sick leave.