Conversations surrounding school safety amid the pandemic continue in Knox County

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The conversation surrounding school safety amid the pandemic continues in Knox County.

It comes just a couple weeks after Knox County Schools welcomed students back for the 2020 school year and as the school board met for its monthly meeting on Wednesday night.

Some parents spoke up at the meeting, pushing for leaders to do what they can to keep class in-person, despite the pandemic. A stark contrast in opinion coming from a group rallying before the meeting, continuing to voice concerns about the safety of being at school.

The group of educators and community members wrote messages and posted signs on their car windows and held a motor car rally, calling for safe schools.

“We can’t flatten the curve if we’re continuing going to brick-and-mortar buildings where it’s just not safe,” Tanya Coats, president of the Knox County Education Association, said. “We spent 7 million dollars on going virtual, so why couldn’t we utilize those devices.”

They drove from Broadway to the Andrew Johnson building in downtown Knoxville, where the Board of Education meets, stressing the importance of online learning or moving students and teachers out of classrooms.

“Help the students and help the educators of Knox County have a safe place. If it has to be church buildings, if it has to be community buildings,” Coats said.

At the school board meeting, a different plea came from a handful of parents during public forum.

“I think the best way to move forward is to keep our kids in school,” said KCS parent Annikka Jenkins.

Jenkins spoke up because she says she’s seen firsthand the impacts virtual moves make on the parents she works with.

“The conversations are real, they’re happening, they’re coming saying, ‘when I see this email from the school board, I’m going to have to turn in my resignation, I cannot be here and then find another way to take care of my kids,'” Jenkins said.

We also asked the board’s vice chair, Virginia Babb, to weigh in on the ongoing debate.

“I think we have worked hard to keep our kids in school with the choice of being virtual for the student,” Babb said. “I really do think schools will stay open but parents do have to have a back up plan because there will be times where their child or their child’s grade or their child’s school might have to go to virtual for a small amount of time.”

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