CHARLOTTE, N.C. — During an emergency meeting Thursday night, Charlotte-Mecklenburg school leaders approved a plan to let kindergarten through 5th-grade students into classrooms more often.
The plan divides students into two groups instead of the previously approved three groups.
Under the old plan, K-5 students rotated one week of in-person learning and two weeks learning remotely.
>> Learn more about the full plan here.
Under the new plan, Group A will attend in-person every Monday and Tuesday, and Group B will attend in-person every Thursday and Friday. Both groups will learn remotely on Wednesdays.
“This modification will increase the amount of face-to-face instructional time for our youngest learners,” said Board Chairperson Elyse Dashew. “Like the earlier plan, it minimizes the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus, but it also maximizes the time K-5 students have with their teachers. We think it’s in the best interests of our students to give them greater opportunities to learn in the classroom while continuing to be mindful of local public health concerns.”
Leaders said teachers will still return on Oct. 19 and K-5 students will return to in-person learning on Nov. 2.
Students who were in Group C will find out if they are now in Group A or Group B in the next two to three weeks.
Officials also said students will be allowed to play outside but cannot use the playground equipment. Specials will be held in each classroom, and physical education will not be held in the gymnasium.
“After a comprehensive study of the in-person instructional plan, we have found a way to increase the time and frequency that K-5 students will spend with their teachers in the classroom,” Superintendent Earnest Winston said. “We will implement social-distancing in schools as much as possible and we’ll focus on making sure everyone wears a mask and washes hands frequently to reduce the risk of infection. We have worked closely with our partners in the medical community to find a way to get our kids back into classrooms with a minimum of risk.”
In September, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper gave districts approval to bring back elementary students full time for in-person learning. The superintendent realized districts across the state are opting for that, such as Iredell-Statesville schools.
“We also acknowledge that other districts in our area are making choices different than what we are presenting tonight,” Winston said.
That doesn’t sit well with school board member Sean Strain.
“There is risk associated to not have kids in the classroom and we tend to skip over that part,” Strain said.
He asked why more kids can’t be in the building more often. CMS leaders told him that after speaking to school officials and the health department, it would be irresponsible to bring back all K-5 students at this time.
“Every day matters for every one of our kids, so I understand there are disadvantages to moving it forward. I promise you there are advantages as well,” Strain said.
Some parents said their focus is more on safety than the schedule right now.
“To be able to enter the building in any way would be positive for my child and for my family, however, I am concerned about safety,” said mother Tracie Gardner. “I trust that the school board members will make the right decision to keep all the children safe."
CMS leaders said all students and staff will be required to wear a face mask and follow social distancing guidelines. The start date of in-person learning is still set for Oct. 12.
“The more we bring people together, we will find out there are teachers, custodians, or students who may have this. What I need to know is our schools themselves are not contributing to spreading the disease,” said Dashew.
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