Knox schools superintendent says virtual learners having problems


Knox County School Superintendent Bob Thomas brought data to the Knox County schools work session Wednesday, showing that students in the virtual program are not doing as well as those taking in-person classes.

“We did a quick look at grades assigned,” Thomas said.

He said he had heard from principals that virtual learning students were struggling more than those in class. During a meeting last month, Thomas said the amount of virtual learning students failing were twice as many as those who did not choose that option.

Thomas admitted that his study was unscientific and he just looked at a sample of schools in the district, which included 14 schools. Those included six elementary schools, four middle schools and four high schools, spread throughout the district.

He said his research found that 9.4 percent of in-person students made F’s, while 21.5 percent of students in virtual learning had failed at least one grade. Thomas did not give specifics about multiple classes.

This comes as parents are looking to select by Friday whether they want their child to continue virtual learning or go back to in-person classes.

He said as of Wednesday there had been 3,700 parents or guardians ask to change their students from virtual to in-person learning, while 700 parents or guardians requested a change from in-person to virtual learning.

School Board member Daniel Watson asked Thomas if he had a sense of how quarantine is affecting children. As of Wednesday, the numbers of students in quarantine or isolation doubled since Oct. 27, school records show.

“I’ve heard a lot of different stories about kids really getting off track during that quarantine period,” Watson said. “What kind of strategies are you using to bring them back in?”

Thomas said he had no information at this time and said the school systems’ research department will probably take a look more in-depth.

“I don’t really know,” Thomas said. “I would be glad to take a look at that.”