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'It's scary to send them back like this' | Knox County parents split on spring in-person learning decision

Some Knox County parents never doubted sending their kids back to the classroom. Others wish they could reverse their decision.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On the first day of the spring semester, some parents are confident in their decision to send kids back to the classroom, but others are having second thoughts.

Knox County Schools required those learning decisions be made eleven weeks ago, before the holiday spike in COVID-19 cases. Some think that was too soon.

Parents of 45,000 students sent their kids to learn in person Tuesday. The school district said around 5,000 made the switch from virtual to in-person from the fall semester.

Many have voiced their opinions online, and parents agree there are no wrong opinions or options for each individual family.

The following four Knox County parents all have different opinions on the decision to send their kids back to the classroom.

For Regina Turner, a mother of a junior at Gibbs High School, she believes there was no other option for her daughter than to go back in person. While they would have loved to try virtual, she said it wasn't possible because of her daughter's schedule and workload.

“It was frustrating and disappointing, because we felt like they had plenty of time to get some plans into place and they didn't do that, so we feel like they failed our child," Turner nodded.

The rise in COVID cases has Turner worried more than ever.

"I didn't sleep a wink last night, I was just like, you know, numbers are up and they're not up just a little they're up significantly," Turner explained.

For Miller Foutch, a mother of a second and fifth grader at Bearden Elementary, she made the decision to send her daughters back to in-person learning because she felt it was the right time.

“I have to say that when we had to make our decision almost eleven weeks ago, we felt pretty good about everything," Foutch explained. "The data just didn't support my decision to keep them home anymore."

But, she admits, while she is confident KCS is doing everything they can to keep her children safe, she was still sad to drop them off at school after almost a year of virtual learning from home.

“I have to say that it's kind of hard, because we just figured out virtual learning, they were doing great," Foutch noted. “You know, it's scary, it's scary to send them back like this and I think we all feel that way.”

Mom of a kindergartener, Amber Burns, is fully confident and excited for her daughter to get face-to-face instruction from her teacher. She believes that in-person learning is the best way for her student to fully retain and experience the things she is meant to learn.

“I am more worried about the long-term ramifications and effects of decreased education for my kiddos," Burns said. "My kindergartener is not going to remember this pandemic. I pray to God that she's not, but long-term, not learning to read, not learning her sounding out her letters, that is going to be a longer-term detrimental effect for her, than COVID.”

She believes teachers and staff are doing their best to keep cases low within schools while giving vital in-person instruction.

Jorgene Dale has a second and fourth grader at Halls. She agrees with Burns, that she knows her students wouldn't do their best in virtual learning, that's why she sent them for in-person classes.

"We haven't felt nervous about it at all or questioned it or doubted at all," Dale said. "All along our kids are going to school, our kids are going to school."

Families agree what works for one family might not work with another, and can empathize with the ones who are having second thoughts.

KCS said the choice deadline was to ensure there was proper staffing for the spring semester, and that is why they told parents the decisions they submitted in October were final.

Multiple parents have said they wish the district would be more fluid and not make "blanket decisions" for the whole school district. Instead, many would like to see choices made for individual schools or grade levels.

Along with virtual and in-person learning, Knox County parents do have the option to enroll their kids in homeschooling instead.