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10Listens: Answering your questions about the Knox County Schools closure

Knox County Schools said staffing challenges related to illness forced them to close for four days this week.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn — Why is Knox County Schools closed?

The district said staffing challenges related to illness forced them to cancel classes from Jan. 18 through Jan. 21.

What types of “illness” led KCS to close?
In addition to COVID cases, the district said it is seeing cases of colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses that are common this time of year.

How many people called out? What is the fill rate for those positions?
At decision-time on Monday, there were 564 staff absences recorded. There were 668 absences at decision-time Tuesday and 684 on Wednesday.

While the district has 878 active substitutes, Superintendent Bob Thomas said the fill rate was around 55 percent.

"It takes the adults being in school to have school," he told 10News. "We want to make sure that we that when we get students in class, we can adequately supervise and also teach our students."

RELATED: List: Schools and businesses closed or delayed due to weather and illness

Why not shift to virtual learning?

A new policy from the Tennessee Department of Education requires districts to apply for remote learning waivers on a school-by-school basis.

It does not allow the entire district to go virtual like KCS did during the 2020-21 school year.

"It would have been nice to be able to do that," he said. "I think we could have could have worked through some of what we've been through if we had had that latitude."

Will students return to class in-person on Monday?

Supt. Thomas said they don't know yet. The district may apply for virtual waivers for individual schools with a large number of students and/or staff out.

"We're going to be working with our administrators over the next couple of days and looking at the number of active cases," he said. "As we identify schools that may fit that category of being able to go virtual, we'll submit a waiver to to the commissioner."

When will that decision be made?

It could be a weekend decision, according to Supt. Thomas. The district will need to file virtual waivers with the state and wait for approval, if that is the route it decides to take.

"If we know something before, then we certainly will let families know," he said. "It could be a situation that we don't know until the weekend... but we'll do the best we can to to let parents and families know as soon as we know."

How many inclement weather days are remaining?

After this week, the district will have 3 inclement weather days remaining. If KCS runs out, the district can choose to make those days up or apply for a waiver.