Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ K-5 students will return to classrooms on Monday for in-person learning. It’s something they haven’t done since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March. 

The continuation of in-person learning in CMS is part of the district’s “Plan B” recommendation, which phases students back into classrooms by grade level over a four-month period. Pre-K and Bright Beginnings students returned to school on Oct. 12 for Phase 1, while Montessori Pre-K and K-5 students represent Phase 2.  

[Related: CMS to phase-in students by grade level for in-person instruction]

As of Oct. 23, there were 2,731 CMS students in schools and eight have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the CMS Metrics Dashboard.

Preparing young students

CMS parent Janaye Cofield said she believes children should be in school. Her 6-year-old son S.J. (Shawn Lester Jr.) will be starting kindergarten at Palisades Park Elementary. For Cofield, virtual learning isn’t as effective as in-person learning when it comes to teaching young children, especially kindergarteners, because they enter into classrooms with different educational backgrounds and skills. 

“Some kids already know everything that they need to know, and some kids know absolutely nothing,” Cofield said. “I was fortunate enough to be able to put my child in pre-K, and he’s been in daycare all his life. Some children who have not been in pre-K or daycare may not know how to hold their pencil, read or count to five.” 

If S.J. wasn’t a kindergartener, Cofield said that she would not send him back to school. She said it would be easier to teach him at home if he was middle or high school-aged. It has been challenging to help her son at home while working full-time. As a human resources professional for a corporate office, she’s typically in meetings or completing interviews most of the workday. 

“You have to sit there with kindergartners,” she said. “It’s very difficult to teach and work at the same time.”

Janaye Cofield with son, S.J. Photo courtesy of Janaye Cofield

Like all parents, Cofield wants her child to receive a quality education. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic in full effect, she is confident enough in CMS’ precautions and safety measures to send her son back to school. 

“It’s a risk that I’m willing to take for his education,” she said. 

Nia Harris is a CMS parent with two children in district schools, one in elementary and the other in high school. Her 9-year-old daughter, Taylor, will return to Walter G. Byers Elementary School for fourth grade on Monday. 

Like Cofield, Harris is OK with her daughter going back to school. She said both her children, who typically earn A’s and B’s, have struggled with remote instruction because they are hands-on learners. 

“I want the best for my kids,” Harris told QCity Metro. “I feel like the best option is sending my daughter back, and it’s OK with me because I know she’s going to get the education she needs.”

Nia Harris with daughter, Taylor. Photo courtesy of Nia Harris

Even with Mecklenburg County in the red zone for Covid-19 spread with 33,749 positive cases as of Wednesday, Harris isn’t hesitant about her children returning to in-person learning. She said her daughter has been taking vitamins, practicing social distancing and is cognizant of the severity of Covid-19.

“I’ve talked to my child about it, and she’s very aware of washing her hands and not getting into peoples’ faces,” Harris said. “She’s a pretty mature 9-year-old, so she kind of gets it.” 

If CMS doesn’t allow students into school now, Harris believes it’ll never be a good time because not being in classrooms is holding them back. 

“I’m sure all parents don’t want their child to get Covid-19 or anything, but we have to move forward and hope it will go smooth,” she said. “If it doesn’t, there will probably be challenges like there were with remote learning. We have to learn how to work through it.” 

What K-5 students can expect

To increase in-person instruction opportunities, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education unanimously voted to revise the district’s “Plan B” reopening strategy during an Oct. 1 emergency session. 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 Monday.

  • 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.

[Related: CMS votes to allow more in-person instruction for K-5 students]

In September, 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. CMS decided to continue with the district’s current approach.

“Factors unique to CMS drive our deliberative approach to getting our students and staff back into our school buildings,” CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said at the Oct. 1 emergency session. “Our commitment to data-informed metrics-driven approach to returning staff and students to our schools remains firm.”

Are you a CMS parent of a K-5 student? How do you feel about your child returning to school?

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Jonathan is a former QCity Metro reporter who covered Charlotte neighborhoods north of uptown. He also reported on education, public safety and health.

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