KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Most Knox County students will go back to school as normal on Monday. However, Austin-East Magnet High students will learn virtually, due to staffing shortages.
Knox County Schools leaders said Austin-East was the only school for which they applied to the state for a virtual learning waiver.
On Friday, parents were waiting to find out whether their child will have to stay home and learn online. Alex Brown, a parent of a Spring Hill Elementary student, said she didn’t like the idea or returning to online learning.
Brown was worried she would have had to stay home and use a paid time off day. She said she was fortunate to have that option, but many other parents wouldn’t. The news of classes being open Monday was good to hear, after her son was out for more a week.
“I know my son really missed school,” Brown said. “I know he’s really excited. He’s been sad about being in daycare and not in school.”
The hope is that students, staff and teachers were able to recover during the week off from school.
Hopefully, those who were sick are on the mend. Paula Hancock, Knox County Education Association president, said that’s one reason why inclement weather days are used.
“Taking inclement weather days for this, it allows, to me, an opportunity as a district to reset,” she said. “Just like they have in the past.”
Hancock said teachers are always prepared to fill in for co-workers whether it is leaving plans for substitutes or combining classes when there aren’t enough subs to fill in. She also said they’re resilient, and if need be, they can switch to virtual, although enough preparation ahead of time is always a blessing.
“It is difficult to absorb, you know, additional students in the classroom, but if you’re spreading it out among a team, you know, hopefully you won’t have too many kids that you have to absorb,” Hancock said.
Brown said teachers are unsung heroes. For their sake, and for other parents and students, she hopes either district or state leaders could figure out a better plan for these situations, so students can stay in school safely.
“Are we going to be in a situation where there will be another variant and we will have a bunch of teachers and subs who are sick again,” Brown asked.
Austin-East will not be alone in going virtual on Monday. The private school Emerald Academy also received a waiver to go virtual on Monday, Jan. 24. Three public schools are going virtual Monday and Tuesday: Big Ridge Elementary School, Maynardville Elementary School and Paullette Elementary School in Union County.