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"Ambiguity is the enemy" | KCS Reopening Task Force delivers insight for fall

Knox County Schools task force chair, Dr. Jerry Askew, walked the board through concerns the group started looking into in early June.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — After a month of meetings, focus groups and surveys — Knox County Schools reopening task force chair, Jerry Askew, told the board that one thing was clear.

"Everyone wants their kids back to school, well the caveat is whether we can do so safely," he said. 

Safety was the center of many of the group's core insights. They said they were concerned about many things from the protocol on school buses to plans on what to do if a student or teacher gets sick. Askew said the community wants to know details.

"Ambiguity is the single source of stress," he said. 

Which brought him to another point task force members raised in both previous meetings — communication.

"The one thing we heard is we can handle anything if you just tell us what it is," Dr. Askew said.

Though the district is now one-to-one, with each student being given a device to access online resources, Dr. Askew reiterated there is more to the conversation.

"We have to make sure everybody has access," he said. "This entire thing is an exercise in balancing risks. There are no risk-free options here."

These insights went to the board, and also to the superintendent. He is expected to release the system's plan in a week.

"We can't mirror what happened back in the spring when we weren't ready for closure," Superintendent Bob Thomas said. "We're gonna step up our game with communication and have a plan ready for next Wednesday and be ready to get back on school."

As for Askew, after delivering the final report, he said his major take away is that the decision is going to take a lot of insight and a lot of consideration.

"My hope is that they will look at data and science and they will make the best decision to balance the risk in any way that they can," he said. 

Askew also touched on the fact that parents are worried about students with special needs getting the resources they need, as well as ESL students and those who require medical resources too.

The superintendent will present the fall plan to the board on July 15.

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