Knox County Education Coalition pens open letter to Knox County Schools board ahead of reopening plan announcement

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As the announcement for the final reopening plan for Knox County Schools draws near, a coalition made up of several local organizations has written an open letter to the school board giving recommendations on reopening schools.

The coalition is comprised of several organizations including:

  • Students Parents Educators Across Knoxville (SPEAK)
  • Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Knox Chapter of the NAACP
  • Stop School PushOut (KSPO)
  • Knox County Educators Association (KCEA)
  • Kindred Futures
  • Latino Students Success Coalition (LSSC)
  • Allies of Knoxville Immigrate Neighbors (AKIN)

They released the letter in hopes of helping the school board compose a plan that guarantees a safe return to school.

“We’ve tried to make it a very broad coalition intentionally to try to make sure that all the people who care about students and children in the community are represented. The idea from the beginning has be to bring in as many voices as possible for what to do to make the schools good.” said Lance McCold, one of the coalition organizers.

The letter includes a lengthy list of recommendations for reopening, including providing PPE for all students and staff, and daily health checks. The letter also emphasizes a need for more funding.

“It’s very practical to think about where are the cleansers coming from, where is the PPE coming from? How do we have enough people to take temperatures every morning and do a health screening coming on campus?” said Candace Bannister, retired teacher and member of Students Parents Educators Across Knoxville (SPEAK).

The coalition members say they are not against reopening, but they want to make sure the plan will keep students and staff safe and healthy.

“I know everybody’s concerned about oh we have to catch up, we were out of school so many weeks we’ve got to get the academics on track and I agree as a teacher, that’s apart of the job, academics, but right now we also have to look at the people. We have to look at their well being, the whole well being of our students and our staff.” Bannister said.

Megan Barolet-Fogarty, director of youth and family engagement for Centro Hispano adds, “If anything, we’re in favor of opening schools because there are so many concerns with distance learning for a lot of the population that we’re serving. Nevertheless, it’s just irresponsible to be opening schools if there’s not a clear plan in place that’s clearly communicated to all families.”

The Knox County Schools Board of Education plans to hear KCS Superintendent Bob Thomas’ presentation on the reopening plan at its July 15 meeting. The full letter from the coalition can be read below.


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