CMS votes to allow more in-person instruction for K-5 students

Elementary students will attend classes in person two days each week beginning Nov. 2, CMS board members voted unanimously Thursday.
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ elementary students will get more in-person learning come Nov. 2. In an emergency session Thursday, the nine school board members voted unanimously to revise the district’s “Plan B” reopening strategy.

Deputy Superintendent of Academics Matthew Hayes explained the new model, which only affects K-5 students in CMS. In the revised plan, elementary students split into two groups — A and B — to attend school two days for in-person instruction each week beginning Nov. 2.

  • Group A will have in-person instruction on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Group B will have in-person instruction on Thursday and Friday.
  • Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students. 
  • There is no change for students assigned to the Full Remote Academy.

The previous model, adopted at the Sept. 16 special board meeting, separated students into three cohort groups that would alternate each week.

Teachers will still report to school on Oct. 19. See the revised elementary plan here.

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Two weeks ago, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that all K-5 schools could move to Plan A, allowing elementary schools to reopen in-person at full capacity beginning Oct. 5. 

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“Our goal is to get students and staff back together in schools,” CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said. “We have made it clear that our priority is to make that happen when it’s safe to do so.” 

Cooper’s executive order removed barriers, but Winston reminded the board that school reopening decisions are ultimately made by the individual districts.  

“Factors unique to CMS drive our deliberative approach to getting our students and staff back into our school buildings,” Winston said. “Our commitment to data-informed metrics-driven approach to returning staff and students to our schools remains firm.”

All students will still abide by the three W’s — wear, wash and wait — with a particular emphasis on wearing facemasks. Required safety and public health precautions will also remain in place. 

Hayes said the plan will give students a weekly touchpoint and offer more accessibility to nurses, guidance counselors and other faculty. 

Board members’ recommendations 

Although the plan lacked opposition in terms of the final vote, board member Sean Strain said he preferred students going back at a 200% increase in frequency. He would’ve liked the district to fully reopen schools for in-person instruction. 

“We don’t talk about at all the risk and damage being done when kids are not in school,” he said. “Every day matters for every one of our kids.” 

Strain also recommended accelerating the middle and high school models in the four-phase plan.

Board member Margaret Marshall liked the revised plan, but before she voted to adopt it, she emphasized the importance of flu shots. 

“Get a flu shot,” she said. “This is going to make a difference in how we stay open. It’s a personal responsibility that everybody has this year.” 

Exceptional students return to school 

Winston announced that over 1,100 students in CMS’ exceptional children programs returned to in-person instruction Tuesday at more than 80 schools across the district. 

“We thank our families for trusting Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to bring these students back safely to provide educational opportunity,” Winston said. “I want to also thank our teachers and staff for being the first back with students since March.” 

He also acknowledged teachers, staff and students at the newly opened Rea Farms STEAM Academy as they are the first-ever to enter the school for in-person instruction. 

“That was a significant milestone,” he said. “We demonstrated so far this week that our deliberative phased approach works.” 

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