Knox County Schools Board of Education: Should masks be required again next year?


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Most of the discussion at the April 7 Knox County Schools Board of Education work session was centered around masks. Should they be required in schools again this fall? That question that led to nearly three hours of back and forth between board members and local experts, then another two hours of public forum.

Parents and members of the community on both sides of the issue shared their concerns. Many of the parents saying the decision will determine whether or not their child remains enrolled in Knox County schools next year.

SEE ALSO: Parents weigh in as Knox County school board plans to discuss mask policy

The board is expected to vote on the district’s mask policy at next week’s meeting.

Another big takeaway was the announcement that Knox County schools is pushing back its deadline to decide on virtual versus in person learning. The school system is waiting for guidance from the state on a possible change to how virtual learning will happen.

Superintendent Bob Thomas says that if approved, the new rule from the state would require virtual students in Tennessee to un-enroll from their base school and enroll in a virtual school approved by the state.

Thomas says they are still working to figure out what this will look like, but he says the plus is that parents get more time to make a decision.

We asked the Superintendent a few questions about who would oversee the virtual schools, would the same curriculum be provided, and if the district would be using teachers from Florida again.

Thomas says the same principals who have been overseeing virtual programs this year for elementary, and secondary schools would remain in charge over the virtual schools. As far as using teachers from Florida, Thomas says that’s not the plan right now.

“That was more less a one year type of situation because the demand was so great. We were afraid we weren’t going to have enough teachers to meet the demand,” Thomas said.

He says some sports and student activities may be limited with this virtual option, but curriculum and class selection should be the same.

“It differs at each school. It would be based on the demand for specific subjects on how we would staff it,” Thomas said.

The next meeting is set for Wednesday, April 14.

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