Two Knox schools move to online learning


Two Knox County schools have canceled in-person classes next week due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are moving their classes online.

Central High School and Austin-East Magnet High School won’t be reopening their doors to students until Monday, Sept. 13, according to Knox County Schools spokesperson Carly Harrington. 

Unlike last year, Tennessee school systems aren’t allowed to fully switch to online learning due to the pandemic. Last week, the state Department of Education began allowing districts to apply for a waiver that allows individual schools or classrooms to shift online, she explained.

Very few schools have been approved for the waiver thus far, prompting nearly 20 school systems across Tennessee to shut down entirely.

“This is our first time applying for these waivers,” Harrington said this morning in a brief phone interview.  

She also said that KCS hasn’t filed any other applications for waivers, an indication that Central and Austin-East are by far the hardest-hit schools in the county.

There were 679 active cases in the school system yesterday, including 594 students and 85 staffers.

Knox County Schools hasn’t released absentee data for individual schools this year, claiming it might compromise the medical privacy of students, but the School Board voted earlier this week to work with the Law Department on releasing that data.

“Please know that this decision was not made lightly. Superintendent (Bob) Thomas submitted a waiver request on Friday to temporarily move our school to remote learning, and this request was approved today by Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn,” said Central principal Andrew Brown in an email sent this morning to students, parents and employees.

“During this time, all students should log in to their Chromebooks for synchronous class meetings, following their normal daily schedule. All extracurricular and athletic activities for the week are cancelled per the Tennessee Department of Education,” Brown said.

“If you need to pick up your student’s Chromebook from school or any other personal items that are needed to continue learning, please call the school to schedule a pick-up time,” he continued.

In order to receive meals next week, a meal request form should be completed at There will only be one meal pickup on Wednesday because of the holiday.

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at 

Published on September 4, 2021.