Community members rally for virtual return to school

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Reopening schools continues to be a hot button issue in Knox County.

A group of people not in favor of returning to in-person classes at the start of the school year held a rally in downtown Knoxville Monday afternoon, gathering in front of the Andrew Johnson building.

“Folks who are concerned that the plan rolling out for Knox County Schools for going back to school is in fact not the best way to move forward,” Nathan Higdon, one of the organizers, said.

Retired teachers, community members and organizers voiced their concerns about returning to in-person classes in a few weeks amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to keep our students and our teachers safe, and I’m really concerned about starting back to school when our numbers are rising as high as they’re rising right now,” retired teacher Jane Skinner said.

“I’m friends with several teachers in this system as well as others, and watching them have to make the choices they have been is excruciating,” community member Jaxx Fox said.

Knox County Schools recently laid out its Fall 2020 reopening plan, giving families the choice of their students attending class in-person or virtually.

“We would really like every student to be online,” Higdon said. “The biggest part of the demands for today is that online instruction should happen until there are 14 days with no new cases.”

Those attending the rally are hoping their voices are heard.

“All the teachers I know, they want to be back in the classroom with their kids, but they fear for their lives and they fear for their students’ lives. That’s the main thing. We do this with all of our hearts, we’ve all dedicated our lives to this, and just hate to see what’s happening right now,” Skinner said.

“We have to come together and figure out something better moving forward for teachers, for parents, for students, for the community,” Higdon said.

We reached out to Knox County Schools for a statement.

“Knox County Schools is committed to protecting the health and well-being of all students and employees. With that in mind, our reopening plan calls for significant new safety measures to be implemented when schools reopen on August 17, including temperature checks, masks, stepped-up sanitizing, and physical distancing where possible. We are also working closely with the Knox County Health Department, the Tennessee Department of Education and the office of Gov. Bill Lee to monitor the spread of COVID-19, and if necessary we will be prepared to move all instruction to an online environment if conditions require such a step.”

Knox County Schools

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