‘Emotions running high’ as KCS ’20-21 school year to start

Susan Horn summed up Farragut and Knox County parent COVID-19-era frustrations in four words: “emotions are running high.”

Horn, chair of Knox County Board of Education representing District 5 (including Farragut), acknowledged the difficulty of Knox County Schools attempting to create a successful in-person/on campus return to school Monday, Aug 17, while also accommodating a little more than 25 percent of families and students choosing the new KCS Virtual Learning Program. (See our Back to School section inside this issue)

“I see a lot of people judging one another about the decisions they’re making,” she added. “… From the e-mails that I’ve received and from the people I’ve spoken with, it’s a really stressful time for a lot of people.

“… I think it’s sad for so many students who don’t know if they’re going to get to play their senior season sport.”

About the final plan hammered out by KCS and superintendent Robert Thomas, “I’ve heard very mixed reviews,” the KCBE chair said. “I’ve heard some parents say that they think it’s a

great plan, they’re very pleased with it.

“I’ve heard a lot of questions from parents about what Virtual school will be like,” she added.

“It’s difficult to present a plan that will really work with everyone’s individual situation … work situation, health situation.”

All Farragut and Knox student schedules, KCS announced, will be released Friday, Aug. 14.

As for in-person/on campus school, “I’m hearing from teachers who

are concerned coming back because they’re concerned about health issues,” Horn said.

In total, “What we’ve seen in the school system is how important it is for students be with teachers in person as much as possible,” she said.

“… We know in-person is preferred.”

However, the district’s Virtual Learning “is a good second option,” Horn said, because in-person/on-campus learning “is not a good option for some people who are not comfortable with it for health reasons.”

Primary level concerns

With parents of the district’s youngest students, “They were concerned about the state mandate, which is for kindergarten students to be actively engaged in Virtual school for four hours a day,” the KCBE chair said. “And the concerns that I had heard were around questioning what that would look like, with the four hours,”

“And concern that could be very difficult for students who are that young,” she added. “I think that it will be challenging for those parents and those students.

“Hopefully, the kindergarten parents are able to really engage in the process in a big way.”

While staggered kindergarten days begin Tuesday, Aug. 18, the first full day for kindergarten students will be Monday, Aug. 31. (Parents will be allowed to walk these students to the classroom only on the student’s first assigned staggered day).

Meanwhile, with in-person/on campus learning, teachers at the primary school level may fear being consumed with making sure their young students aren’t pulling off their masks — or pulling off other children’s masks.

“That will be difficult also,” Horn said.

Long-range feedback

As for her feedback, “A lot of the e-mails I’ve received are from around the county,” Horn said.