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School board members clash over Knox County reopening plan

Some school board members clashed Wednesday night during a meeting before a presentation of Knox County Schools' reopening plan.
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 11:46 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Some school board members clashed Wednesday night during a meeting before a presentation of Knox County Schools’ reopening plan.

KCS reveals fall plan

LIVE: The Knox County School Board unveils the reopening plan for fall 2020

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Board chair, 5th District representative, Susan Horn opened the meeting by addressing the board and the crowd Wednesday night and said that the board was not voting on the schools’ reopening plan, which delays the start of school until August 17 and institutes models depending on the pandemic.

At least one board member, Jennifer Owen, 2nd District representative, expressed concern about the issue, saying she believed that the issue had not been transparent and that there was a lack of a push to include the public.

Owen also questioned why the reopening plan wasn’t on the agenda earlier and why it was only a presentation from Superintendent Bob Thomas.

Superintendent Thomas said that there were focus groups which even he was not allowed to be a part of. He added that some focus groups he hosted were not open to the public to some topics which were of a sensitive nature.

Other board members argued that their meetings were open and available to the public, with one mentioning that they were all streamed.

Board member Terry Hill, 6th District representative, spoke up and said she believed the confusion on Owen’s part was due to the fluidity of the reopening plan and its ability to be changed and discussed.

Board members weren’t the only ones to speak up, several people spoke during public forum, asking for schools to either wait or to implement more rules.

A man, who identified himself as Dr. Deaver Shattuck, spoke up and asked that masks be required at all times, not just at times when socially distancing isn’t possible. He said the disease is “very, very serious” and said that the mask rules are not stringent enough.

Board Member Mike MacMillan supported the plan, calling it “outstanding,” but did agree with Shattuck, saying mask polices absolutely had to be enforced.

After public forum, Owen spoke again, saying that the decisions should be “our decision. We should be working together ... this plan should be on me too, not just one individual.”

Kristi Kristy, 9th District representative, pointed out that, while she did not have a problem with voting on the plan, she was concerned that it would limit their ability to make changes without having to have another meeting.

Thomas acknowledged that while being in charge of the plan without addition from the board was a “lonely feeling,” he was good either way, with or without voting. He did ask that, if the board did vote, it be easily changed without future meetings.

After hours of debate, Owen restated her motion to adopt the plan with flexibility to make daily changes as necessary with major changes to be addressed in a board meeting with up to 72 hours notice. It passed.

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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