By Ken Lay

Knox County’s public school students will return to school today after summer vacation. But some other students in Knoxville are already back in the classroom for the 2021-22 academic year.

Emerald Academy, a charter school in Knoxville, welcomed its students back from summer break last week.

Students were welcomed by staff and faculty as they walked the green carpet to the main entrance of the school.

There was inspirational music and staff members welcomed back the students with encouraging signs as all prepared for the new school year.

One of the Emerald Youth Foundation’s officers, family engagement director Cedric Jackson, welcomed the Emerald Academy scholars back early last Monday morning.

“We’re all excited to be here and this gives the opportunity to see our scholars and their families on the first day of school,” Jackson said. “We’re rolling out the green carpet at Emerald Academy.

“We have balloons and we’re here to welcome the students. We want a fun and welcoming atmosphere for our kids.”

The K-8th grade scholars returned with the COVID-19 pandemic still a factor in society and the school is encouraging its students and staff to wear face coverings, even though masks are officially optional.

“This year is going to look a little different,” Jackson said. “We have scholars coming in who have been homeschooled and last year, a lot of students were homeschooled.

“This year, we are strongly encouraging our scholars and our staff to wear masks while they’re inside the building. We’re encouraging that until we can all get a handle on what’s going on.”

The Emerald Youth Academy is a free charter school and it exists to give parents options and an alternative to public schools, private schools and homeschooling.

It is the only charter school in Knoxville and Jackson said that the school is still taking applications for this year.

“We want parents and scholars to know that they have options,” Jackson said. “We have a stringent curriculum and we will prepare our scholars to go on and be successful at their zoned high school.

“We still have openings, particularly in our upper grades, particularly the eighth grade.”