KCS families can now apply to switch learning methods for spring

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The spring semester is still a couple of months away, but the Knox County School district is starting to prepare by figuring out who will be enrolled virtually or in-person.

Families have the option to switch how their child is learning for the spring semester.

They can do so by visiting KCS’ website at knoxschools.org/connect.

The district must know which option the student plans to enroll for by 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Some families have already decided, saying their choice came down to factors including health, safety, convenience and what they might be missing.

Shannon Hall, a mom of a South-Doyle freshman, said they were still kind of deciding, but they would most likely choose in-person.

“I just kept him out for the flu season to make sure that he’s ok. He has a few little health issues. But, I mean, he’s been great and I think he’ll be fine going back to school,” Hall said.

She said her son missed his friends and actually being in the classroom.

“He wants to go back because he has classes coming up that’ll be more hands-on that there’s just no way he could do through the computer,” Hall said.

She said that virtual school hasn’t been too difficult for them.

The only issue that arises is a lapse in the WiFi signal.

“He thinks he’s going to get in trouble that he’s not in class and, I’m like, ‘they can see, they know if you’re not on there, there’s other people who aren’t on there because the WiFi’s gone out. It’s not just our house,’” Hall said.

She said the teachers have been great online, but she think her son will learn better in-person.

Bob Thomas, superintendent of KCS, said that’s one aspect parents need to think about if they plan to stay with virtual class, or switching from in-person to virtual.

He said he had taken a look at grades from several schools across the district at the half-semester mark, which is roughly four-and-a-half weeks.

“What we were seeing at the four-and-a-half week mark was about twice as many failing grades for the virtual program than the in-person program,” Thomas said.

He said the lower grades were not a reflection of the teachers adjusting to online classes, they’re a reflection of students not actively participating.

“We’ve had students who haven’t shown up, some in the virtual program that haven’t done the homework and turned in work in the virtual program because it’s obviously, without that structure, it’s easy to let that happen,” Thomas said.

Thomas said students taking online courses really need motivation, discipline and structure.

He said they knew that the achievement gap was a little wider starting off the semester because school was closed early and started late due to COVID-19.

He’s worried virtual learning might be growing that gap.

Abbie Taylor, a senior at Career Magnet Academy, said going to school online did require some adjustments.

“The first few weeks were hard because you know, you’re getting used to everything virtual and trying to figure out how to pace yourself with all of the classes,” Taylor said.

She said that once she got a planner and a calendar, keeping track was easy.

However, she is also choosing to go back in person, even though she won’t actually have classes at her high school. Her classes will be at Pellissippi State Community College.

“I will go in person just because, the only reason I had gone virtual this semester was to save gas. So, I’m gonna go ahead and say that I’m in person next semester,” Taylor said.

Thomas said they do expect quite a few students to return to the classroom in spring.

He said the district made the application to choose the mode of learning a little easier compared to the first of the year.

One issue, though, is they won’t know class schedules, for online or in-person, or teacher assignments until they know how many students are switching or keeping their learning methods.

According to the FAQ on the KCS website, course offerings in secondary schools might not be the same, and teachers for online or in-person might be different.

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