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East Tennessee school districts take different approaches to at-home distance learning

Not every school district can go to the same lengths to allow students to learn from home. Experts said parents need to get creative.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County students would have already returned to the classroom by now, but instead, they are staying home due to closures over coronavirus concerns.

KCS isn't offering distance learning materials while schools are closed, but districts across the state are taking different approaches to at-home learning. 

Dr. Amber Rountree is a child literacy expert, former Knox County School Board member and former Knox County educator. She's also a mom of three boys and she knows what it's like to try and work from home while teaching her children.

While some Knox County Schools' parents are concerned with the lack of distance learning materials, she understands KCS's decision.

"The school systems really have to provide equitable access to materials for all children in the school system and we have children with varying needs — with IEPs and accommodations that have to be met," Rountree said.

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KCS said it doesn't have the resources to do that, so it's not requiring graded work. Instead, the district is offering optional online learning materials.

"You know I think there are lots of opportunities that parents can take during this time, but I really want to urge folks not to be overwhelmed with stress due to lack of academic progress," Rountree encouraged.

In Anderson County, it's the opposite. Communications & Public Relations Coordinator Ryan Sutton said the district has worked tirelessly to make sure students have as many resources as possible.

"We wanted to make sure that during the school year now that we continue that academic learning process, no matter if we're in the classroom, or we're at home," Sutton explained.

Printed off paper packets were handed out to lower grade levels and video Google Classroom assignments are ongoing. Teachers are also interacting with students over Facebook videos.

Everything that is assigned will be turned in for a grade, so all so kids can keep up with the curriculum while school is out.

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"So, you know, I don't personally think an online class will ever replace in-person instruction," Sutton admitted. "But I think at this point in time, it's the best that we have, and that's what we have to go with."

Rountree said overall, parents should encourage their kids to learn in ways that inspire them such as by using online resources through the Knox County Library, by using online artist lunch hours or by learning games using things in your home.

"Acknowledge that we are in a strange time and the best way to get through it is to give grace to ourselves and others," Rountree encouraged.

RELATED: Scholastic offers free online classes for your kids to learn during school closures

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