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'We are offering choices' | Knox County School board stands by decision to offer in-person, virtual options

Families have until July 22 to decide whether their student(s) will learn in-person or online. The first day of school is Aug. 17, one week later than planned.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — At the Knox County School Board meeting Wednesday, district leaders emphasized options and flexibility.

"We are offering choices," school board member Terry Hill said. "If you are a family that believes that this is not the right thing to send your children back to school, no one is telling them telling you that you have to."

The first day of school will now be August 17, one week later to help teachers and schools adapt to the new protocols. 

"Schools will need extra time to plan and prepare for reopening once teachers are back on contract," Supt. Bob Thomas said. 

From there, each family can decide how their student(s) will learn. The in-person option will require masks wherever physical distancing isn't possible, daily temperature checks before entering the building and hand washing or sanitizing stations in every classroom/

"This is what it is right now. But that doesn't mean it can't change and it doesn't mean it can't be tweaked," Thomas said. "I'm anxious to hear what parents [and teachers] are saying to us. We will take that into consideration and do as much as we can do to make it more palatable for everyone and make it safer."

While Thomas would prefer everyone to learn in person, he understands the challenges that presents this year.

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"We want safety in the schools and our principals want that," he said. "We do know the very best education, the teaching and learning takes place in the classroom with our teachers every day."

But because of the current situation, families can choose a virtual option too.

"The virtual learning program is closely aligned with the requirements of an on campus classroom," Thomas said. "It will include instruction on new material, graded assignments, and also testing."

The virtual option will also have a virtual administration. Registration for that option is open through July 22, but students must stick with their choice for the entire semester. 

"Initially, we talked about wanting to give families more flexibility," Thomas said. "When having talked with our principals and looking at it a little closer, it's become clear that in order to organize our classrooms and allocate the resources in a manner that they need to do it, we would ask for a firm commitment for the whole semester."

Board members also talked about making the mask requirements more stringent to include situations when physical distancing is possible.

"What I heard tonight is 'Hey, we really got to make sure that we enforce the requirement for masks,'" Thomas told 10News. "I don't like wearing a mask. But hey, if that's what I have to do, then that's what I have to do."

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