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Knox Co. Schools leaning on focus groups, task force to decide what fall 2020 will look like

Teachers, students, principals, parents and community reps are all giving their insight to the superintendent on what school will look like during a pandemic.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County Schools is getting ready to start the 2020 school year in a pandemic.

Superintendent Bob Thomas said teachers have online training to do, but they're hoping to start school in person in the classrooms on August 10.

"The contingency plan is if we can't be back in school then to do the very best we can with remote learning," said Thomas.

Focus groups of teachers, students, principals and parents and a community task force are all weighing in on what to do this school year.

RELATED: 'It will be different' | Knox County Schools considering three different reopening strategies for Fall 2020

"We have one chance to do this right. We need to ask the hard questions. We need to share whatever knowledge we have because we've gotta get it right in the fall," said Jerry Askew, Chair of the Community Re-opening Task Force.

Askew said he and nine other community representatives chosen by the Board of Education are being asked to comb through 150 pages of data that come from more than 30,000 people who took the school district's online survey.

RELATED: KCS releases internet accessibility data

Eighty-two percent of those were parents, and 51 percent of survey takers want school to be held on campus, in person.

"The teachers, the principals, the students and the parents. That's the information I need to hear," said Thomas.

Thomas has met or will meet with parent, student, principal and teacher focus groups this week.

The task force and district want to make sure students with special needs and students without internet access will have equal learning opportunities should plans change and schooling moves online.

They asked Thomas how students from all socio-economic backgrounds will have the same online access, as well as how they'll get their own school supplies that are generally shared by a class.

Buses and what busing will look like in the fall was also brought up.

According to the survey and information from Thomas, about the same amount of parents plan to send their kids to school on the bus now as did before the pandemic.

There are currently no plans in place as to what protocols will take places on buses or in the classroom.

RELATED: 'We want a seat at the table' | Knox County teachers talk fall reopening plan, task force

The survey showed the most important safety measure people want to see is frequent cleaning of surfaces.

"Our primary goal in addition to guaranteeing safety is to make certain that our children get a first-class education," said Askew.

The task force will meet again Monday, June 29.

Thomas must give his recommendations to the board of education on July 15.

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