Thousands of CMS elementary school students return for in-person learning

Thousands of CMS elementary school students return for in-person learning

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Monday was a big day for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools elementary school students as thousands of them returned to the classroom for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

District officials said they worked around the clock to get everything ready for students and faculty to return.

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Students were split into two groups -- A and B. Group A will be at school on Mondays and Tuesdays while Group B will go to class on Thursdays and Fridays. Everyone will learn remotely on Wednesdays.

CMS updates its Metrics Dashboard every Monday afternoon. Currently, there are 6 students and 21 staff members who are COVID-19 positive.

The school district said it hopes the cases stay low and everyone comes to school healthy, but it has a plan in place in case of a positive test or someone shows symptoms.

“So, during the day, if we see symptoms or if a student doesn’t pass the screener on arrival, we have a room, it’s technically called the ‘Isolation Room,’ we’re calling it the ‘Care Room,'” Principal of Elizabeth Lane Elementary School Crystal Lail said. “So in the ‘Care Room,’ we would take the child to the room, call a parent/guardian to pick them up and explain what our concern is and that room wouldn’t be used for any other purpose.”

District officials said they will notify who may have been exposed to the virus as well as people in the building who were not exposed.

Last week, ahead of the elementary school return, the district released what they are calling a COVID “Symptoms Screener Survey" that will have to be completed every day.

Each morning, the CMS symptoms screener will come to the CMS student email address with a link to complete the survey or you can access a link on your school’s web page.

There are three questions:

  • If you’ve had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • The second question will ask about symptoms
  • If you have been diagnosed with COVID since last being in the school building

You will either get a green check and be allowed in or a red “X” with further instructions.

Children who ride the bus will also need to complete the symptom screening process.

They will complete a safety form before getting on the bus and will give it to their driver. It asks health screening questions and it needs a parent’s signature.

In addition to the form, all parents will get an email to their child’s CMS address with a link to the symptom screening tool, which they will need to complete daily before school.

As students get off the bus at school, they will get their temperature checked. Students riding the school bus will be required to wear masks at all times and the buses will be stocked with hand sanitizer. In addition, the buses are cleaned twice a day.

Channel 9 was there as cars and buses lined Monday morning to drop elementary students off -- first for the symptom screening before going into classrooms. It’s a new daily routine that parents will have to get used to.

“Went really smooth actually I was expecting to have to wait a lot longer but it was really easy,” mom Shana Steverson said.

We witnessed plenty of excitement from the students as we followed CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston into a classroom at Blythe Elementary.

He said the first day was a success.

“We fully expect just as with any first day of school that it takes time to get into routines for families and for staff and this is different than anything we’ve done before but by and large it has been a successful opening and we’re just excited to continue," Winston said.

Teachers have shared with Channel 9 that they are asking families for grace and patience as they shift into this hybrid learning model.

'Completely torn’: Teachers eager to see students, still have worries though

Channel 9 was there Monday morning as staff set up at the entrance of elementary schools to go through the symptom screener with students and check their temperatures.

Some teachers told Channel 9′s education reporter Elsa Gillis even though they are excited to see their students, they are nervous about safety.

“I am super excited about seeing kids, of course that’s our job, so we love to see them and we love to teach them but I’m also extremely nervous about everything," teacher Nicole Hinnant said.

“I am like completely torn in half,” teacher Martha Reyes said. “I miss the kids so much and miss having them in person, but I just don’t know if it’s safe yet.”

As elementary schools prepared to welcome students back to the classroom this week, Channel 9 got a sneak peak at the changes.

Once students enter the school, they will go straight to class and desks will be spaced apart. There is tape on the floor that designates each student’s own space and each student will have their own set of supplies.

While masks must be worn all day, students will have mask breaks like when they eat.

As for cleaning, districtwide the custodial team will be cleaning and disinfecting inside classrooms and restrooms at the end of each day, along with enhanced cleaning on common areas.

While Kindergarten through fifth grade return Monday, the district plans to bring back more students in phases. Students in grades 6 through 8 will return Nov. 23 and high school students won’t return for in-person until Jan. 5.

CMS prepares for return of K-5 students