KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Back in September, keeping kids in school for the full year seemed impossible.
Now, a year since the pandemic first shut down Knox County Schools, more children are learning in the classroom than any other time.
The number of staff and students who are sick is at a record low.
"I think that overall we had a successful year," said parent and KCS employee LaSheika Jones.
But other parents said that they don't believe the numbers tell the whole story.
"They probably missed more school than they were in this year," said Tammy Brummitt.
She struggled to find childcare for her two boys when their school went red — and the three or four times they were sent home because of exposure or possible coronavirus symptoms.
"Bless his heart, I told him, I said 'don't you cough again at school,'" she said she told her son.
She grades the district response as a 'D.' Other families said it wasn't as bad as they expected.
"The first semester it was kind of trying because everyone was learning the new way of learning," Jones said. "I thought at the beginning it was going to be very chaotic."
Jones gives the district a 'C' grade. She said the administration did the best it could.
"When the schools needed to go on red, they went on red," she said.
If coronavirus rules stick around through next year, Jones thinks it will go more smoothly. But Brummitt wants a return to the way things were.
"I hope it's normal. I hope you can go eat lunch with your child," she said.
In a statement, Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said:
"Knox County Schools is the largest school district in the state to offer both in-person and virtual learning options since the start of school in August. We are incredibly proud of the remarkable work of our students, families, principals, teachers and staff who have made this school year a success despite the challenges of a global pandemic.
"We will be sharing details about our plans for next school year in the near future. We can tell you that the district will continue to offer an in-person and a virtual learning option for students."