Update (Oct. 26, 2020)
Knox County Schools will continue to offer two learning options in the semester that begins on Jan. 5, 2021. Students can utilize in-person, on-campus instruction with additional safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or they can utilize our virtual learning program.
If families are happy with their current choice, they do not need to take any action. However, families that want to switch their learning model – from virtual to in-person instruction, or from in-person to virtual – must do so between Oct. 26 and Nov. 6. More specifically, the deadline to change instruction models will be 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6. Families will be able to make this change using an online form that will be sent by email on Oct. 26 or by completing a printed form that will be available at each school and is also available below. The printed forms must be emailed or delivered to the school office by the deadline.
In an effort to help our families make a decision, we have created an FAQ document that addresses questions about topics including student schedules, masks and quarantine procedures in the spring semester. The FAQ is available in an English-language and Spanish-language version.
In March 2020, KCS closed its school buildings due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency declared by Gov. Bill Lee. Following that closure, the district spent several weeks gathering feedback and working with state and local officials to craft a reopening plan for the fall semester that will advance the work of teaching and learning while protecting the health and safety of our community.
As part of that effort, the district received input from:
- Focus groups of teachers, families, principals, and students;
- 30,000-plus respondents to an online survey;
- A Community Task Force appointed by the Board of Education; and
- Medical experts at the Knox County Health Department.
On July 15, Superintendent Bob Thomas announced a plan to reopen our school buildings in August, while offering a Virtual Learning Program for students who are uncomfortable returning to school.
To give our principals and teachers more time to prepare, KCS delayed the start of school for students. The first day of school was Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. This change required the district to use 10 inclement weather days. However, our 1:1 initiative to make a Chromebook available to every student will provide additional flexibility for offering instruction even when schools are closed.
The enrollment period for the Virtual Learning Program opened at noon on July 15, 2020, and closed at 11:59 p.m. on July 22, 2020. Students who elected to enroll in the virtual learning program will be committed to this option for the entire semester.
Details about specific aspects of the plan are available using the buttons below.
Academics and Virtual Learning Program
As part of our reopening plan, KCS will provide two academic options:
- In-school instruction with new health and safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Enrollment in our Virtual Learning Program, which will provide instruction remotely.
Students who elected to enroll in the Virtual Learning Program will be committed to this option for the entire semester.
In-school instruction will include additional safety measures, including:
- Temperature checks will be conducted on every person who enters our school buildings, in order to identify students, staff, and visitors who have a fever.
- Hand sanitizer and disinfectant will be provided to every classroom to prevent the spread of germs.
- All students will be required to wear a mask while on campus when physical distancing isn’t possible, unless a student is unable to remove a mask without assistance or has a medical condition or other need preventing it.
- All staff will be required to wear a mask while on campus when physical distancing isn’t possible or there is a medical condition preventing it.
The Virtual Learning Program will closely align with the requirements of an on-campus classroom, and will include instruction on new material, graded assignments, and testing.
While this program will not be able to offer all course options available at our traditional schools, all students will remain on track for progress to the next grade and for graduation.
Students who enrolled in the Virtual Learning Option will still be able to participate in extracurricular activities at their base school.
For more information about Academics and the Virtual Learning Program, please see the FAQ document below.
Health and Safety
As part of our reopening plan, in-school instruction will resume at our school buildings, with additional health and safety measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
These measures include the following:
- Every person who enters the school building will be required to have a temperature check, in order to identify students, staff and visitors who have a fever.
- All students will be required to wear an appropriate mask while on campus when physical distancing isn’t possible, unless a student is unable to remove a mask without assistance or has a medical condition or other need preventing it.
- All staff will be required to wear an appropriate mask while on campus when physical distancing isn’t possible or there is a medical condition preventing it.
- Buildings will undergo daily sanitizing for high-touch areas such as doorknobs, handrails, and countertops using a COVID-certified disinfectant.
- Common areas such as administrative areas, libraries, cafeterias, auditoriums, gymnasiums, and hallways will be misted with a COVID-certified disinfectant daily and classrooms will be misted at least every other day.
- Restrooms will be monitored and disinfected multiple times each day.
More information about Health and Safety is available in the FAQ document below.
Quarantine is used to keep close contacts of infected individuals (those who spent 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19) away from people who have not been exposed, in order to slow the spread of the disease.
Students who have been exposed may become infectious at any time within 14 days of their last exposure to an individual with COVID-19.
- If your child must quarantine, they should stay home and stay away from people, to the extent possible. If your child must leave home, they should wear a cloth face covering or mask, remain at least six feet from others and, if seeking medical care, notify the facility prior to their arrival that they are currently in quarantine for COVID-19.
- If a student is quarantined because of a potential exposure, their siblings who live in the same house can still attend school. However, if a student tests positive for COVID-19, other members of their household must also quarantine.
- Students in quarantine must sign in and complete assignments provided to them through KCS online platforms, including Canvas and Microsoft Teams.
- If your child has been identified as a close contact for COVID-19 exposure and must quarantine, you will get a phone call to pick them up from school.
More information about Student Quarantine is available in the FAQ document below.
In May of 2020, the Board of Education approved a 1:1 plan that will make a Chromebook computer available to every KCS student, starting in August.
This initiative was made possible by federal funding provided through the CARES Act, and will enable teachers to enhance their instruction through the use of technology. By making computers available to every student, we believe the district will have more flexibility to continue teaching during unusual circumstances, such as a weather event or a closure due to illness. Equally important, we believe that even during normal operations the availability of Chromebooks will provide new learning opportunities and prepare students to succeed in a world where technology plays such an important role.
Chromebook registration forms and insurance forms are now available online, and paper forms will be available at schools beginning on July 24. Please note that these forms require a student number (which begins with an "S"). If you do not know your student’s number, login to the Aspen portal or call the school. Once the forms are submitted to the student’s base school, the school will contact them with details about how and when the devices will be distributed.
In order to best use your laptop, it is very important that your home has access to the internet by the start of school in August. A customer service line for assisting families with accessing affordable internet services at home will be available beginning on July 20.
Stay Up To Date
As we prepare to distribute Chromebooks, KCS wants to make sure families get the information they need. One way to do that is by updating your email address in Aspen Family Portal.
Here’s how to do it:
- After logging in to Aspen Family Portal, click on your (parent) name at the top right, and choose “Set Preferences” from the drop-down menu.
- In the pop-up box, click the “Security” tab at the top.
- Make sure your email address is up-to-date, and add an alternate email if necessary.
For all other changes, including an update to your phone number, please contact your school office. If you’re not getting text messages from School Messenger, you can also text the word YES to 67587.
Secondary Parent/Student Device Orientation Translations
Our district is committed to providing free and appropriate educational opportunities for students with disabilities. During this public health crisis, we will continue to work with families to meet the needs of our students while following public health guidelines. Families will have the option of virtual programming if they choose to not have their student attend in-person. More specific information about virtual student supports will be sent to families directly from the Department of Student Supports.
The reopening plan includes the following measures related to Special Education:
- Knox County Schools will continue to provide families the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the IEP / 504 processes. Staff will work with families to determine if virtual or in-person meetings are appropriate.
- Accommodations and modifications are provided regardless of the educational setting. The IEP / 504 teams will work collaboratively with families to identify alternative solutions if it is determined an accommodation or modification is not appropriate or successful in a particular setting.
- If an IEP / 504 team determines that a student requires a device other than a Chromebook, KCS will provide an alternative device option.
- If a student utilizes the virtual learning program, special education teachers and Section 504 case managers will continue to work closely with general education teachers and / or students to support all provisions, such as accommodations and / or modifications.
More information about Special Education is available in the FAQ document below.
As part of our reopening plan, KCS will implement protocols designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
These measures include the following:
- Every person who enters the school building will be required to have a temperature check.
- Students with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be isolated, and parents will be called to pick them up. Employees with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will return home.
- Students and staff with fever and COVID-19 symptoms must remain home for 72 hours and have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted their primary care provider.
- Students and staff with fever and no other symptoms must be fever-free without the assistance of fever-reducing medications for 24 hours before returning to school.
- If someone in a classroom tests positive for COVID-19, our Health Services Department will work closely with the Knox County Health Department to execute contact tracing in order to determine who else might need to be quarantined.
- KCS will notify families if there is an incident that results in potentially being exposed to COVID-19.
More information about COVID-19 Protocols is available in the FAQ document below.
As part of our reopening plan, KCS is committed to protecting the health and safety of employees and providing them with the tools and information they need to advance the work of education.
Employee-related measures include the following:
- Every employee will receive a daily temperature check and be required to self-screen using a daily questionnaire related to health and safety.
- Evaluations will proceed as normal unless otherwise directed by the State Board of Education. Observation pacing will be set by the Level of Effectiveness score from 2018-19. (No LOE was generated for the 2019-20 school year.) If the State BOE modifies evaluation requirements, the District will notify certified employees as soon as possible.
- If an employee is required to self-quarantine at the direction of the Health Department or a physician, the employee may use 10 emergency sick leave days pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
- Employees who must self-quarantine and have used all available FFCRA leave may elect to use any available accrued leave days or take days without pay.
- Employees will continue to receive a duty-free lunch period. To ensure proper social distancing and other safety precautions, the lunch period may be required to be taken in an assigned location.
More information about Employees is available in the FAQ document below.
English Language Learners
As part of our reopening plan, delivery of ELL instructional services will continue to be provided by a licensed ELL teacher, both within the classroom and via online learning. In addition, the teacher may utilize digital resources that are designed to increase language development and literacy.
Our plan includes several measures related to English Language Learners, including:
- In cases where masks and social distancing prevent an ELL student from understanding their teachers or classmates, the Department of Student Supports will provide alternative face coverings. In addition, ELL teachers will incorporate the use of visuals and comprehensible input strategies to increase student comprehension.
- Students have three options for being screened for ESL services:
- Students may be screened at the Welcome Center during enrollment, or families may schedule an appointment.
- Families may request the ELL teacher at their school to screen their child.
- If the district has to go to online instruction only, students will be screened online with the SOLOM Rubric (Student Oral Language Observation Matrix). If they qualify, they will receive online support. Once classes resume, the student will be screened with the WIDA Screener.
More information about English Language Learners is available in the FAQ document below.