CMS students will continue remote learning as Covid-19 cases spike

Read what some teachers were saying.
University-City-Park-School-classroom

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students will continue remote learning until at least mid-February.

In an 8-1 vote during an emergency session, the school board approved a plan to further delay the start of in-class learning because of a dramatic spike in the number of coronavirus cases confirmed in the county.

Under the new CMS plan:

  • Pre-K, elementary and K-8 students would return on Feb. 15.
  • Middle and high schools would return on Feb. 22.
  • Nearly all sporting events would be suspended.
  • Community use of school building would be suspended

Why it matters: CMS had planned to reopen all schools next week, but that plan was scuttled when, earlier this week, county Health Director Gibbie Harris issued a three-week “directive” that essentially advised county residents to stay at home but for necessary outings. The directive does not carry the force of law.

“What we’re wrestling with is safety and academics,” board chair Elyse Dashew said during the virtual emergency meeting. “Even though remote schooling is working fine for some kids, it’s not working fine for a lot of kids. And yet, the (coronavirus) numbers are just in a really bad place… I don’t see how we can go back on Jan. 19. I just don’t think that’s responsible.”

In issuing her health directive, Harris said that Covid-19, a potentially fatal disease caused by the coronavirus, is spreading in Mecklenburg County at an “exponential rate” —  from about 100 cases per day in September to a current average of about 900 cases per day.

If the pandemic worsens, a return to in-class learning may be further delayed At the school board’s next scheduled meeting, on Feb. 9, district officials will review fresh data.

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Sean Strain was the lone board member to oppose the plan. He questioned why the district should delay in-class learning beyond the Feb. 2 expiration of the county’s health directive.

“Where is the alternative here?” he said. “How is this in the best interest of kids…?”

In the 24 hours leading up to the school board’s vote,, QCity Metro spoke to several CMS teachers about the prospect of returning to in-class learning. Here is what three of them said:

Lauren S. Simmons, English teacher

Simmons said she hoped that board members would heed the advice of county health officials.

“For CMS to disregard those directives jeopardizes the entire Mecklenburg community,” she said. “CMS officials need to do what is right, not only for students but their employees.”

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Simmons said she would love to be face-to-face with her students again, but she questioned the wisdom of instruction at a time when Covid-19 numbers are spiking.

“The worst feeling in the world is to be treated like you don’t exist, and that’s how I feel as a teacher working in CMS right now,” she said. 

Amanda Thompson-Rice, CMS educator and parent

Thompson-Rice said she’d like to see remote learning continue through mid-March. By that time, she said, more people could be vaccinated and the infection rate might be lower.

“Everyone knows we need to stop the spread, so we cannot separate the school from the community,” she said. “We are one and the same.”

Dawn Bratton, first-grade teacher

Dawn-Bratton-classroom

Bratton said she was prepared to return to her class if school board members voted to resume in-class instruction. She said students need consistency and a routine. She has tried to give them that, she said, even while teaching remotely. 

“We’re in this together,” she said. “This is bigger than me; those are my babies.”

Jonathan Limehouse
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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