Central students recall the chaos of the 2020/2021 school year. Now that COVID-19 numbers are rising again in Knox County, one question is on everyone’s mind: what happens now? And will that happen again?
The Knox County Schools COVID dashboard reports that only 1114 of 1318 enrolled students at Central were marked as present on Sep 14. 204 Central students could not come to school that day. At the peak of the 20/21 school year, in December, the New York Times reported 625 as the 7-day-average of cases in Knox County. The 7-day-average is listed at 521 at the time of writing. That’s only 104 less.
Many students wonder if Knox County Schools will be forced to create a virtual option. However, Central’s school board representative, Jennifer Owen, says that Knox County Schools does not have the authority. “The State Board of Education and Department of Education are not allowing district-wide virtual options for the 2021-2022 school year,” she says. “The only virtual options allowed require a waiver from the Commissioner of Education, on a school by school basis.”
COVID numbers were so high at Central that Knox County Schools’ superintendent Bob Thomas applied on Sep 3 for a waiver to make Central and Austin-East High School virtual for the week of Sep 7-10. The waiver was accepted by Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn.
With a number of differing opinions on how best to handle the rising numbers, Knox County Schools maintains a hotbed of political disagreement. The school board has been under constant pressure by parents of Knox County students.
“It is important to keep in mind that this is unlike any time we have experienced,” Jennifer Owen weighs in. “When people call, their concerns are very personal and important. If their concern is expressed as anger, we have to have empathy and understand that this is a valid expression of very serious concerns.”
Every day seems to bring new changes to the state of COVID in Knox County Schools. Students and teachers will just need to keep an eye out for what comes next- and, for immunocompromised students like the one above, cross their fingers.