By Joe Rector

Knox County Schools opened the doors once again on Thursday, February 21. For three days, students and teachers received an unofficial vacation as custodial staffs slaved away in efforts to scrub away the flu that had afflicted scores of folks.

Without a doubt, many parents were incensed that schools closed. They were inconvenienced with that decision. Arriving to work became an almost impossible task for some. One parent had to stay home to watch over younger children. To complicate the problem, most daycare centers run on the same schedule as the schools. Moms and dads decided who would stay with children, or they divided the chore so that neither lost too many days of personal leave.

The complaints of parents is normal; however, they might need to understand the problems that arise at such times. The most obvious is the one that deals with the illness itself. Students arrive at school not feeling particularly well. Within a few hours, they are fever-ridden; some sneeze and cough, acts that spread the virus across surfaces. Perhaps the outbreak would have been held in check if more parents made sure children received flu vaccines, but these days, immunizations are too often viewed as “suggestions” instead of necessities.

Another reason for shutting the doors of schools involves teachers. When teachers are ill, they have no business going to work. No instructor can effectively run a class when she is ill. Besides, ill teachers also spread “bugs.” A sick adult is asking for trouble when he sits in a class and runs the risk that a serious problem arises. Sapped of strength, the individual finds actively intervening in bad situations is impossible.

At the same time, a shortage of teachers sometimes leads to classes being combined. Not much teaching can be achieved when one person is overseeing his students, as well as those of another teacher. Of course, jamming even more students together in a room only increases the chances of spreading the flu.

Another determining factor concerns substitute teachers. They, too, fall ill to the viruses that invade a school. Those people are the last line of defense. When a shortage of subs hits and scads of teachers are ill, no one is available to cover any classes.

With all of those things working together, the only action for schools to take is the closing of buildings. Doing so causes problems for parents. At the same time, however, teachers are pressured to cover materials that are included in year-end testing. They fret that student scores will be lowered because they haven’t learned materials, and teachers also know that their own performance evaluations are influenced by their students’ scores.

Students might like the break, but they also miss out on participation in school sports and other activities. When schools are closed, things associated with the school are supposed to be suspended. At the same time, it takes little time for students to grow bored by being stuck at home. They are social creatures and enjoy the interactions with friends, but that is interrupted when the doors are closed.

I feel for parents who have to hustle to find ways to make their lives run smoothly, both at home and at work. I was lucky to have taught school and to have been on the same schedule as my children. Let’s hope that moms and dads understand the decisions of schools when they close in order to safeguard their children.

Now it appears that the floods around Knoxville will cause more inconveniences for families. However, this time, many folks will stay home together since the waters are so high they can’t leave their subdivisions. All can take deep breaths and try to make the best of an unusual situation. Try to enjoy the together and know that this, too, shall pass.