Parents scramble to make at-home learning work as Knox County Schools go fully virtual

Education

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– Going fully virtual for a week makes parents truly appreciate their child’s teachers.

On Wednesday, Knox County Schools announced the entire district would go virtual the week before winter break. Superintendent Bob Thomas said all of the markers aligned for the decision.

More students were already learning online (about 47% of the district’s students), more teachers were absent and it was getting harder to find substitutes.

“We had about a 62% increase in the number of active cases with students and staff since Thanksgiving, in terms of looking at isolations, we’ve seen a 32% increase,” Thomas said.

Some parents with kids making the switch next week were disappointed or had mixed feelings. Christie Rouse wasn’t sure making the entire district go virtual was necessary.

Two of her kids were already learning from home due to COVID-19 related issues, but her youngest son’s school (Adrian Burnett Elementary School) didn’t have any issues.

For her, it’s important her youngest learns in-person because he is special needs and does better with hands on learning.

“Anytime that he needs to do something, I’m gonna have to be right there, so that’s going to be hard to, because I’m not going to be able to help my older two,” Rouse said. Her other two don’t like virtual either.

There are too many distractions at home, sometimes the internet goes out, they like handing assignments to teachers in person and they’re able to have a teacher look over their work if they question anything.

Rouse said having all three at home won’t be easy.

“Three kids trying to do team meetings, my older two are in band so, they both have to play their instruments for like an hour a day,” Rouse said.

She said that fortunately, her youngest son’s special education teacher and aides are helpful and willing to do anything to keep pushing her son virtually.

However, she knows from past experience her son doesn’t like it when she is the ‘teacher’ and tries to get him to do school work at home.

“He’ll be missing out on what he would be getting in school, but we’re just going to do what he can and will do and just leave it at that,” Rouse said.

For Brandi Renfroe, going virtual meant figuring out what to do with her 8-year-old while she has to work. Renfroe had mix feelings about the decision. She works in healthcare, so she truly understood the state of the community.

“Catch 22 all the way around. You know what I’m saying? It’s something that probably needs to happen simple because the numbers are rising and that sort of thing, but the implications are huge,” Renfroe said.

Through Renfroe’s job, she knew those implications. Because the entire district is going virtual, some of her employees will also have to figure out what to do with their kids.

That could mean fewer employees going into work because they need to watch their kids.

Renfroe said personally, she’s debating whether to take her 8-year-old to day care (if possible), or allowing her 16-year-old daughter watch her while she’s learning virtually.

“The 8-year-old can stay here, but that means that 16-year-old will have to baby sit, try to do her own virtual learning and and get my the 8-year-old making sure she’s doing what she needs to do virtual learning,” Renfroe said.

Renfroe said going fully virtual couldn’t have landed on a better week though, at least for the younger students. Her 8-year-old’s class planned to have a holiday party one of the days.

Of course, both Renfroe and Crouse were nervous about what happens after the holidays.

Thomas said that based on the increase of cases after Thanksgiving, there is a chance there’s an increase of cases over the winter break.

However, the district will continue to monitor the cases over the break and base decisions on what the current status will be.

Thomas said he hopes students continue practicing the extra safety precautions during winter break, and hopes they continue reading.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

WATE 6 Storm Weather School

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter