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KCS to apply for state permission for virtual learning after week without classes

In Tennessee, if schools want to move to virtual learning due to staff illnesses, they need to submit a waiver to the state's department of education.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County has been closed for a total of three days so far due to illnesses and staff absences, and officials said they will be closed Friday as well. That results in nine days students have gone without instruction in the county, following the long weekend due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"We're seeing no state strategy other than telling folks that they can't do what they need to, to keep their kids, teachers and other staff healthy," said Rep. Gloria Johnson.

In Tennessee, if schools want to move to virtual learning, they need to ask for permission from state officials. They need to submit waivers on a school-by-school basis, explaining the school's situation and why it needs to move to remote learning. Then, state officials need to approve it.

"I think it's an unnecessary hurdle," said one parent. 

Parents had the choice to attend class in person or learn virtually at the start of the school year. However, they cannot make that decision midway through the school year, and schools cannot switch to virtual learning without state permission either.

"It's created a crisis, there's no doubt about it," said Rep. Johnson.

Leaders in Knox County Schools said they are considering whether to submit a waiver and push for some schools to switch to virtual learning while people recover from COVID-19 and other illnesses.

"I really think that being at home would be the best option," said one Knox County parent. "And, if anything, the virtual, the method that they're using, may need to be re-evaluated."

After this week, Knox County Schools will only have three inclement weather days remaining. And if the school district runs out, they can choose to make those days up or apply for another waiver.