Knox County Schools students to be given virtual option again next school year; board to discuss masks at April 7 meeting

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students attending Knox County Schools will be able to choose to attend class virtually again next school year, but the decision would be for the entirety of the academic calendar.

KCS Superintendent Bob Thomas sent out the notice to families Friday, detailing important dates for enrollment and what pre-requisites will be needed. The email also stated the Knox County Schools Board of Education will be discussing face coverings at its April 7 meeting for next school year.

Enrollment for KCS families to make their students’ attendance selection will be April 15-23. The selection will be for the entire 2021-22 school year.

The school district began offering virtual learning options last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Families could choose, each semester this past academic year, for their students to learn either in-person or online since the district distributed Google Chromebooks to every student thanks to CARES Act funding.

In summer 2020, the school district began developing its plans for last the school year, which was the first time they were able to offer a full virtual learning option for students. Both in-person and online classes began Aug. 24, 2020.

Google outages, spikes in COVID-19 cases and attendance issues for staff at some school campuses saw the district shifting some in-person students to online learning from time to time during the school year.

Despite the tangible resource of Chromebooks for students, some families struggled due to lack of adequate internet access, then in late 2020 a rise in COVID-19 cases prompted the district to switch all students to online learning — which also highlighted the need for care for younger students who had to learn from home while parents worked prior to the January 2021 return to in-person class.

Area organizations stepped up to help out some families, while the district tried directing families to internet access assistance.

Now, school district leaders and families are looking to fall 2021.

Though the 2020-2021 academic school year has gone somewhat smoothly for in-person and online learning with some variables worked out or getting worked on, more discussions will be happening as the enrollment for next school year gets closer.

The following email was sent out to Knox County Schools families on Friday evening:

Dear KCS families,
Spring is here, and I am very thankful for the warmer temperatures and the many opportunities for our families to spend time outside. The last 12 months have been very challenging, but the changing seasons should inspire us to continue looking out for one another and looking forward to better days ahead.
I know that many families are eager to receive details about the 2021-22 school year, and the district has been working hard to prepare for it. The district will again be offering both an in-person and a virtual learning option. The enrollment window for families to make a selection will be April 15-23. This selection will be for the entire 2021-22 school year.
Families who want their students to enroll in virtual learning will have to meet certain pre-requisites. You may read about these pre-requisites on our FAQ here. Kindergarten students will not be eligible for virtual learning.
The current Board of Education policy does include face coverings, but we will be having a discussion about this policy at the next Board meeting on April 7.
On a related note, KCS announced earlier this month that we will be offering a 6-week Elementary Summer Learning Camp and a 4-week Middle School Summer Bridge camp for eligible students beginning on June 1. These free programs were made possible by the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act, which was approved by the General Assembly in January, and was designed to support students whose learning was interrupted by COVID-19.
Eligible families should have received an enrollment email on March 22, and the enrollment deadline is April 20. An FAQ and more information are available at knoxschools.org/summerlearning.
Because Friday, April 2 is a KCS holiday, I will be sending next week’s family update on Thursday, April 1. Please look for it in your inbox, and I hope that our students and school employees enjoy their day off on April 2.
I hope you have an enjoyable weekend and, as always, I appreciate your support of Knox County Schools!

BOB THOMAS, SUPERINTENDENT, KNOX COUNTY SCHOOLS

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