Coronavirus in Knoxville: Knox County Schools Superintendent talks delaying start of school

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – We’re hearing from the Superintendent of Knox County Schools, one day after he announced a new first day of school date.

Both in-person and virtual students will now return to school on Monday, August 24.

Superintendent Bob Thomas brought up the delay at Wednesday’s Board of Education work session.

“I know the delay is not ideal, but my hope is that if we take a little extra time we can avoid some challenges that might come up down the road,” he said in his report before the board.

“We had about 18,500 students sign up for virtual learning program, which was about double what we thought. It’s a lot of schedule changes involved in enrolling the students in virtual learning program,” Thomas said.

“This actually gives us more time to actually familiarize ourselves to get acclimated in our classrooms or at home, wherever we’re going to be teaching,” said the president of the Knox County Education Association, Tanya Coats.

Another topic discussed centered on what the Superintendent called a teacher shortage.

“We have about 1,400 students right now that we won’t be able to schedule in the virtual learning program unless we contract with Florida Virtual School, which we’ll bring that contract to the board next week,” Thomas said.

The proposal was met with some concern by board member Jennifer Owen. She said, “Anytime we’re talking about outsourcing, that should be a big red flag to everyone in this room.”

“Not in favor of outsourcing teaching, that’s not what this is about. It would be a one year contract just to allow us to offer what we promised and told parents and students that we were going to deliver,” Thomas said.

With the anticipated first day of school approaching, Thomas wrapped up his report to the board with this message: “There will be challenges, I’ll say that upfront, and we’ll make some mistakes, but please bear with us, because we’re going to do the very best we can.”

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