Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ phased-in approach will return students to the classroom for in-person instruction by grade level over a four-month period. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted 6-3 during a special meeting Wednesday to approve the district’s “Plan B” recommendation.
Deputy Superintendent of Academics Matthew Hayes overviewed the model for the four-phase plan.
- Phase 1: Pre-K and Bright Beginnings (excluding Montessori) return Oct. 12.
- Phase 2: Montessori Pre-K and K-5 return Nov. 2.
- Phase 3: Grades 6-8 return Nov. 23.
- Phase 4: Grades 9-12 return for EOC testing on Dec. 14 and resume in-person instruction on Jan. 5.
Pre-K students will remain in school full-time, while the other grade levels follow an A, B, C week schedule, alternating between one week of in classrooms and two weeks of remote learning.
In addition to the rotations, the amount of time between phases will depend on:
- The time needed to assess the stability of public health and operational metrics
- The time needed to adjust processes, like symptom screening, for future phases based on what CMS staff learns about the current phase.
Students in the Exceptional Children program will return to school for in-person learning by Sep. 29.
Students in the Full Remote Academy will continue with remote instruction full-time. Families will have an opportunity to re-evaluate their Full Remote Academy decisions for the second semester. Any requests to transfer from the Full Remote Academy into in-person instruction will be addressed individually by schools .
“There is no plan that will make our entire community happy,” CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said at the top of the meeting. “What we present today is an approach that strikes a balance.”
Transitioning to Plan B
Gov. Roy Cooper’s guidance to open K-12 public schools with Plan B gave context to the board’s decision, Winston said.
After initially voting to reopen schools with two weeks of in-person onboarding before moving to remote learning, the board switched its option in favor of starting the school year fully remote. However, the group predicted that a viable plan needed to be developed.
CMS Chief of School Performance Kathy Elling said the district would remain in Plan B even if dashboard data suggests there is minimal spread in the community. Elling says Cooper dictates whether or not they can move into Plan A, where students and staff return in person full-time with minimal social distancing.
Hayes said the safety of CMS students and school-based faculty/staff is of ultra-importance, and decisions will be made districtwide.
Divisiveness on the plan
Board member Margaret Marshall voted against CMS staff’s Plan B recommendation because she wanted a more compressed schedule so students could start in-person instruction earlier.
“We had given enough time and I hoped by Oct. 19 we would begin this process and have students walking out of buildings,” she said. “I also hoped that this transition period would be shorter. I do want students to go back in some form or fashion, but I cannot support this particular calendar recommendation because I do think it should be sped up and condensed.”
Marshall appreciated the variety of opinions on the board, and in the public, regarding the Plan B recommendation.
“That’s just the way it’s going to be right now,” she said. “If anything was easy, we would have already done it.”
Board members Rhonda Cheek and Sean Strain agreed that the recommendation should have gotten students in classrooms sooner. Cheek thought Sep. 24 would be a viable time to return students to in-person instruction, and she recommended accelerating the timeline ahead of the meeting.
Teachers and parents wait for a decision
CMS teachers and parents went to the chat box on the board’s Facebook page to voice concerns, adulation or complain about the length of the meeting.
“For those wanting to go back so soon, do you have ANY idea of the work it takes for schools and teachers to be prepared for that WHILE they are still currently teaching ALL DAY??!!” Philana N. Woods wrote.
“Folks think about the kids falling through the cracks and the inequalities in our community. It’s a tough decision and it’s not going to make everyone happy,” Denise Maffia wrote.
“I like Gabe (Schuhl),” Antoinette Ross wrote randomly while the board member addressed furloughs in CMS.
“The plan is idiotic,” Pete Downing wrote.
Some parents and teachers understood the plight of the board’s decision, but ultimately it came down to a vote.
“We know there will be challenges moving forward but I’m confident we’re on the right track,” Winston said to conclude the meeting. “Please continue to exercise grace and patience through this process.”
The board also granted Winston the ability to implement furloughs. However, no furloughs would happen before Sept. 21.
Although the furlough authority is temporary and expires June 1, 2021, CMS student adviser Schuhl said the furloughs are “out of pure necessity.” He wanted the board to recognize that they are creating financial hardships for a lot of people.
See the full plan here.