KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County Schools will keep masks in the new school year if that's what guidelines recommend.
Wednesday night the board voted 5 to 4 on Superintendent Bob Thomas' recommendation to follow CDC, local, and state guidelines on mask guidance in schools.
That guidance could change as the year progresses.
"We're trying to give parents some guidance for what we're going to follow in August," said board member Virginia Babb.
The decision came in two parts. The board voted unanimously to let the current mask policy in place to expire on August 1, which required masks for all students and educators.
Starting August 2, the divided board voted to keep mask requirements in line with local, state, and CDC guidelines. An exception could be made for Pre-K and kindergarten students if a parent asks their student to be excused for cited reasons -- including documented health, behavioral, disability or individualized needs.
Several board members including Superintendent Thomas are hopeful restrictions will be lifted as time passes.
"I think we all hope there are changes. I hope we don't have to do it. Masks, contact tracing all the things we've had to do this year," said Babb.
"If we as a body choose to give in to social pressure rather than medical expertise we could be stuck here for a very very long time," said board member Jennifer Owen.
Some board members were not happy with the decision.
"After the other night I don't have any faith in Dr. Buchanan tells us," said board member Mike McMillan.
Parents and guardians will now face a decision of whether their child will attend in person or virtually.
"Doing our jobs involved helping the community understand the reality of our situation," said Owen.
Enrollment for the virtual learning program has been postponed. KCS will provide additional information as soon as possible. You can find more answers to questions here.
Updated school information is posted here.