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East Tenn. districts preparing to welcome students back this fall

U.S. Air Force photo / MGN
U.S. Air Force photo / MGN(KALB)
Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 11:26 PM EDT
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School districts across East Tennessee are trying figure out how to welcome back students after the coronavirus cut this past school year short.

August 10 is the opening day for us," Knox County Superintendent Bob Thomas said. "That’s when we’re planning on to have students back in school."

Thomas said they, like other districts, are working on plans for a new school year after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered school buildings though out East Tennessee.

"We don’t know what that will look like," Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt said. "I can pretty much guarantee it will be different then what we are a custom to."

Thomas said they are looking at a variety of changes to keep students and staff safe.

"We want them back in school, that’s where teaching and learning works best," Thomas said.

While their goal is to have students back on campus full time, they are working on a backup plan that includes alternate scheduling and online learning.

"We could possibly with our elementary classrooms maybe put 21 students in the classroom, and we have some lower student-teacher ratios in a lot of schools so that would work," Thomas said. "We will continue to look at the lunchroom situation, that might have to be different as well. They may have to eat lunch in the classroom."

He said they are still waiting for more guidance from local leaders and the CDC before making final arrangements, but there's a current guideline that Thomas thinks could be a challenge in a school setting.

"Having to wear a face mask all day long would be a pretty hard obstacle to overcome," Thomas said. "I’m hoping that when we’re back with social distancing if we can maintain that, then maybe that would be one obstacle we could workaround."

When it comes down to it Thomas said no matter what, the welfare of their staff and students is their only priority.

"Whatever we have to do, to do that then we’re going to work to that end," Thomas said.

Knox County schools has also started a task force to help guide their reopening of schools. They are also seeking input from parents with an online survey.

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