KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County Schools unveiled its reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year on Wednesday evening.

Here are 6 Things to Know about the plan:

When does the school year start?

The first day of class for students will be Monday, Aug.17. This one-week delay will give the district time to adjust our procedures, deploy Chromebooks to students, answer questions from families and implement health and safety measures that are critical to the plan’s success.

All student schedules will be released on Aug. 14.

What teaching options are available to students?

Students will have two academic options for the fall semester:

  • Option 1 is in-class instruction, with additional safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Option 2 is enrollment in our Virtual Learning Program, which will provide instruction remotely.

Students who choose the Virtual Learning Program must register by Wednesday, July 22. Students who elect to enroll in the Virtual Learning Program will be committed to this option for the entire semester. Currently enrolled students will be sent an email detailing how to enroll in the Virtual Learning Program via the Aspen Family Portal. (A video tutorial is available on Youtube)

The Virtual Learning Program will closely align with the requirements of an on-campus classroom, and will include instruction on new material, graded assignments and testing.

While this program will not be able to offer all course options available at our traditional schools, all students will remain on track for progress to the next grade and for graduation.

Students who enroll in the Virtual Learning Option will still be able to participate in extracurricular activities at their base school.

There will be exceptions made for students who are required to quarantine or other special circumstances. For quarantine or short-term absences, whenever possible, teachers will work with the students as they do with students who are absent for any other reasons. In other cases, the virtual learning program might be beneficial. However, those students would be expected to return to face-to-face instruction once released from the quarantine.

What precautions are being put in place for in-classroom learning?

In-school instruction will include additional safety measures, including:

  • Temperature checks will be conducted on every person who enters our school buildings, in order to identify students, staff and visitors who have a fever.
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant will be provided to every classroom to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • All students will be required to wear a mask while on campus when physical distancing isn’t possible unless a student is unable to remove a mask without assistance or has a medical condition or other need preventing it.
  • All staff will be required to wear a mask while on campus when physical distancing isn’t possible or there is a medical condition preventing it.

Employee-related measures include:

  • Every employee will receive a daily temperature check and be required to self-screen using a daily questionnaire related to health and safety.
  • Evaluations will proceed as normal unless otherwise directed by the state Board of Education. Observation pacing will be set by the Level of Effectiveness score from 2018-19. (No LOE was generated for the 2019-20 school year.) If the state BOE modifies evaluation requirements, the district will notify certified employees as soon as possible.
  • If an employee is required to self-quarantine at the direction of the Knox County Health Department or a physician, the employee may use 10 emergency sick leave days pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
  • Employees who must self-quarantine and have used all available FFCRA leave may elect to use any available accrued leave days or take days without pay.
  • Employees will continue to receive a duty-free lunch period. To ensure proper social distancing and other safety precautions, the lunch period may be required to be taken in an assigned location.

All educators, whether teaching in person or through the Virtual Learning Program, will be expected to work from the school building.

Teachers may be asked to take student temperatures. KCS has provided each school one thermometer for every 40 students. In order to get students into classrooms most efficiently, a variety of staff members may be asked to facilitate temperature screens.

If an employee is not comfortable returning to school in August, the employee can complete paperwork for a leave of absence, if applicable. If the employee does not qualify for a medical leave of absence, the teacher may apply for Administrative Leave Without Pay for the first semester. The employee will need to complete the appropriate paperwork to initiate the request process.

Personal Protective Equipment will be purchased for teachers and access to appropriate cleaning supplies will be given.

Students or staff who show symptoms of COVID-19 will not be required to produce negative test results to return to school.

My student has an underlying health condition and cannot be in school during COVID-19. How will the virtual learning program accommodate their needs?

Teachers and service providers will work with families to prioritize services that provide access to the general curriculum and enable student progress toward Individualized Education Plan goals/Section 504 Service Plans.

Services for students will be addressed in collaboration with families on an individual basis.
Accommodations and modifications are provided regardless of the educational setting. The IEP and 504 teams will work collaboratively with families to identify alternative solutions if it is determined an accommodation or modification is not appropriate or successful in a particular setting.

Knox County Schools will continue to provide families the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the IEP/Section 504 processes. Staff will work with families to determine if virtual or in-person meetings are appropriate. KCS will make every effort to balance parent preference and public health guidelines.

What about health precautions on the school bus?

While it is possible to physically distance on a bus, it is not operationally feasible due to the extreme loss of capacity that results. Buses will operate on a normal schedule on all designated routes. If parents elect to use bus transportation, they should ensure their children are fever-free prior to boarding the bus each day and students who have a fever or are otherwise ill should stay at home.

Weather and other conditions permitting, all windows on non-air-conditioned buses will be open. Buses with air conditioning systems will not operate those systems in the recirculation mode.

Students will be required to wear an appropriate mask while in transit, and siblings should sit together when possible. Buses will be disinfected following morning and evening runs with a COVID-19-effective agent provided to contractors by the district. KCS will also provide training in the proper use of the disinfectant.

Bus contractors will be responsible for implementing a pre-route driver temperature check to ensure no driver has a fever of 100.4 degrees or greater. Bus and shuttle drivers will wear an appropriate mask at all times while operating a vehicle.

Parents should ensure that students are fever-free prior to boarding the bus. If a fever is detected at
school, parents will be asked to make arrangements to pick their child up just as they are any other time a child becomes sick at school.

My student does not speak English. Will they be able to utilize the virtual learning program?

Delivery of English Language Learner instructional services will continue to be provided by a licensed ELL teacher, both within the classroom and via online learning. In addition, the teacher may utilize digital resources that are designed to increase language development and literacy.

Student Supports will provide alternative face coverings to ELL students to ensure that masks and social distancing don’t prevent them from understanding their teachers or classmates. In addition, ELL teachers will incorporate the use of visuals and comprehensible input strategies to increase student comprehension.