KNOX COUNTY — "This is not the new normal," Frank Shelton, director of communications and governance at Knox County Public Schools, said about plans for re-opening school in the fall.
“What we have is a playbook essentially, knowing that at any time COVID-19 cases could impact the plan that is in place. Our playbook is to defeat COVID-19 in the Knox County Public Schools."
The playbook that Shelton refers to is the various instructional methods that the school district is planning for August 24, the first day of school for students.
Knox County Public Schools, consulting with the Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, CDC, Knox County Health Department, and Barbourville ARH, are working throughout the summer on a Road Back to School. The district is committed toward an environment that provides safe and healthy opportunities for students to learn, for teachers to instruct, and for employees to support the educational process.
Families will have the option of learning at home and learning at school, according to Shelton.
"Learning at home means simply that, students will utilize technology to log in each day and enter their online classrooms where lessons, videos, and assignments are posted. Learning at school will mirror that as students log in to the online classroom at school," said Shelton. "The difference will be having a teacher present in the classroom and available for immediate help and explanation of each lesson. The at-home learning students will also have access to a teacher, via telephone, e-mail, and video conferencing. They will also have access to after-hours technology support if their device is unable to connect to a site or load a lesson."
The survey results have helped the district prepare for how students learn and the important role of family involvement. While surveys are still being collected, Shelton said that there are reoccurring themes that can not be overlooked.
"Families struggled in the spring, with the unknowns about their own job, trying to balance working from home if they were able to do that, all while ensuring that their child was completing school work,” he said.
"With the addition of having tutoring available, technology support, and lessons available for download ahead of time for those without Internet service, we are identifying barriers and trying to remove them. When it is all said and done, this is not the new normal. There is no replacing a teacher being able to assist a child face to face, especially during the developmental years."
Shelton is optimistic about the upcoming school year as were principals we spoke to across the district.
"We can’t wait to see our Wildcats safely back at school. We have all missed our students very much," said Principal Anthony Pennington of Lynn Camp Schools. "Our district and schools have a solid plan in place to keep everyone healthy, happy and learning."
Eric Hubbard, principal at Central Elementary, echoed similar words.
"As you talk to your children daily about school starting back, be sure to let them know, no one has missed them more than all of us at KCPS. We can’t wait to see each of them soon."
Hubbard, like many principals, has spent time in classrooms looking at solutions to ensure social distancing and also looking at other spaces that would provide more room for students.
"Principals, teachers and staff have worked really hard and will continue working hard to make this an excellent and most of all safe year for our students," said Hubbard.
The district acknowledges that families have concerns about the various guidelines in place for returning to school. "We are constantly in communication with Kentucky Public Health and the Kentucky Department of Education seeking guidance. Again, this is not a new normal, this is a temporary solution until our students can return to school," said Shelton.
When visiting Knox County schools and offices, visitors and employees will be required to complete a brief health check and have their temperature taken. Masks are required when meeting with someone and/or when social distancing is not possible. If you are sick or have been sick in the past 24 hours, the district asks that the individual calls instead of visiting.