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As cases of the coronavirus rise in Mecklenburg County, the local school district has once again changed its plans for in-person instruction.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board members voted 6-3 Tuesday evening to return to full remote learning (plan C) beginning Dec. 14. A majority of K-12 students would return for in-person learning on Jan. 19.

Other components of the recommendation include:

  • Pre-K students continuing in-person learning in schools and through providers. 
  • Exceptional Children returning to remote learning unless their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) calls for in-person instruction. 
  • High school and middle school end-of-course exams continuing as planned (Dec. 14-21).
  • Students having the opportunity to sit for their required in-person exams. 

“We believe it is in our best interest for the health and safety of our students to return them to remote instruction,” Superintendent Earnest Winston said at Tuesday’s virtual board meeting. 

Winston also said that an increasing number of students are receiving D’s and F’s as the first semester ends. He comforted CMS students by saying their academic struggles in the first quarter doesn’t mean they will fail the entire semester. 

Current Covid-19 situation in CMS

Over the past two months, Pre-K, elementary and middle school students who attend K-8 schools returned to classrooms. Traditional middle school students and high schoolers were supposed to return to in-person learning on Jan. 5

According to CMS’ metric dashboard, 67 students and 94 employees have tested positive for Covid-19. Meanwhile, county health officials confirmed 46,611 positive Covid-19 cases as of Sunday. The 11% test positivity rate represents an increase in trends over the last 14 days.

CMS Chief of School Performance Kathy Elling said CMS currently has some Covid-19 transmission, but it isn’t “substantial.” Mecklenburg County Medical Director Dr. Meg Sullivan said children under 10 are less likely to transmit Covid-19. She also said there aren’t any clusters in CMS Schools. 

CMS Deputy Superintendent Matthew Hayes did say that Pre-K students will remain in-person because they are “least at risk” for contracting the virus and have the “greatest risk for loss of education time.”

The board’s decision came the same day Gov. Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will enter a modified Stay at Home order beginning Friday. The executive order requires people to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Opposition for the recommendation 

Board member Sean Strain questioned why CMS would go into full remote learning when so many students were struggling academically. Also, he didn’t understand the rush to send students back to remote learning when there isn’t much Covid-19 transmission in schools. 

Board member Rhonda Cheek voted against the recommendation because she said the risk of contracting Covid-19 for K-5 students, like Pre-K, is very low, so moving to full remote learning isn’t warranted. 

During the public comment portion of the meeting, the majority of parents were in favor of transitioning to remote learning — including middle school teacher Erika Taylor. With case numbers rising, she said she would have been very concerned to re-enter her school building come Jan. 5. 

Parent Doug Hutton opposed the recommendation and said parents and students who wished to be fully remote had the option to sign up for the district’s “Full Remote Academy,” which launched on Aug. 17. 

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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