KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After weeks of development, the presentation from the group responsible for helping give feedback to Knox County Schools leaders as they make the fall reopening plan amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic occurred Wednesday evening at the Knox County Schools Board of Education work session.
The board of education is expected to make the final decision on how and when Knox County Schools will reopen.
The KCS community task force has been collecting data to provide feedback to the school district, including community surveys for families and focus group sessions, as leaders navigate the process of reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic this fall.
Wednesday’s meeting was the community task force’s planned presentation to the Knox County Board of Education, with the final plan presentation from Superintendent Bob Thomas slated for the board’s regular session meeting on July 15.
“Equity, communication, risk balance.” Those are the main topics task force chairman Dr. Jerry Askew said he tried to bring forward in his report Wednesday.
“If future circumstances dictate that online learning is the only option for a period of time or if a hybrid model of reopening is adopted, access to broadband service must be in place for all students,” Dr. Askew said at the podium.
“Very important that we reach all children, which we weren’t able to do in the spring,” Superintendent Thomas said.
The task force also made clear the importance of communication.
“Communicate, communicate, communicate. And then when you’re finished communicating, keep communicating,” Dr. Askew said.
The sentiment was echoed by the President of the Knox County Education Association, Tanya Coates, during public forum.
“Educators are worried senseless without the communication,” she said.
“Communication, communication, communication. We’re going to step up our game when it comes to communication and have a plan ready for next Wednesday, for July the 15th,” the superintendent said.
“My hope is that they will look at data, they will look at science, they will make the best decision they can to balance the risks in every way they can,” said Dr. Askew.
In the meantime, the superintendent had this message for parents: “I’d like to ask for grace. It may not look perfect on day one but be assured that we’re going to work as hard as we can to make it perfect.”
Last week, in an email sent to KCS families, Superintendent Bob Thomas said their goal is to return to in-person classes if it can be done while protecting health and safety of students and staff; however, he acknowledged that some families wouldn’t be comfortable with in-person attendance and so the district plans to have a virtual option for those students.
The final decision will be left to the board of education.
The district has been posting its reopening plan development on its “KCS Connect” website as the process continues.
The Tennessee Department of Education has also released a series of reopening “toolkits” for school districts around the state; with school districts expected to turn in their final reopening plans to the state later in this month.