CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the first time in two months, some Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students will return to the classroom Thursday morning.
The first group of students was back in-person Monday and Tuesday. The second rotation of students will attend in-person instruction Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday is a remote learning day for all students.
Students who are in Pre-K, elementary schools, K-8 schools, and some students with disabilities who need in-person services went back this week.
Pre-K and some of those students with disabilities are in the classroom five days a week.
The other students will go two days a week with everyone learning remotely on Wednesdays.
The same groups were on Plan B in December before CMS switched to all-remote learning because of rising COVID-19 cases.
Every day before school, students will have to fill out a symptoms form. CMS encourages families to fill it out online before their child arrives at school. But if they can’t get it electronically, school staff will help students fill out a hard copy.
The symptom screener consists of three health questions to help determine if you should send your child to school.
>> Click here for the CMS symptoms screener.
Once students get to school, they will have their temperature checked. Everyone will also have to wear a mask. However, masks with valves are not allowed.
School hallways will also have one-way markings and desks will be spaced apart.
According to CMS leaders, every school has plenty of PPE including extra face coverings and cleaning supplies. Superintendent Earnest Winston said keeping everyone healthy boils down to one simple rule.
“If the child is ill and not feeling well, please do not send children to school sick,” Winston said. “That endangers the health of so many others in the building, their peers and our staff members.”
Joseph Bowman’s first and second grade children have not been in a classroom for nearly a year after selecting to go full remote last semester.
“They were actually very, very excited. They haven’t been to school since the pandemic started since last year,” Bowman said Monday. “So just excited to get around some kids and have a little bit of a social life around the kids. They’re probably tired of mom and dad, and mom and dad are a little bit tired of them, too.”
The father said he feels comfortable with the safety measures in place.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit, it’s a little concerning obviously,” Bowman said. “We really care about their education. It’s really important that they get some in-class learning, because I just feel like the kids are behind this year, in general. So, we’re pretty comfortable.”
At the beginning of the school day, Winston said it had been smooth sailing. While it was not necessarily the first day of school, it had the first day of school feeling for many students and parents.
Parents told Channel 9′s education reporter Elsa Gillis that despite temperature checks and symptom screenings, car lines moved well and students were seen getting off the bus and out of cars with their masks on.
A couple of parents spoke about how relieved they were to get their kids back in the buildings with their teachers and friends and expressed concern that their students were falling behind a little at home.
“We’re very excited that they are back,” parent Mary Dickey said. “They were falling a little bit behind at home, so it’s a good thing that they are back in school. We’re happy about it.”
The superintendent made a handful of visits Monday morning, and he said he sensed the excitement to be back at school.
“I have sensed enthusiasm, excitement and most of all, a lot of energy,” Winston said. “I just want to thank our families for partnering with us because of course, the safety measures don’t start when the kids arrive at school, they start at home.”
The CDC said COVID-19 does not spread as easily in schools as it does in the community, but only if schools are vigilant in following health guidelines. That has some parents concerned.
“I want them back in school, but the main thing is safety is number one,” parent Jonathan Graham said.
“I think we should wait longer,” parent Katia Farias said. “I don’t think we are there yet when it comes to children. When it comes to my children, I’m not letting him come back yet. I think we should wait until teachers are vaccinated.”
The CDC issued new guidelines for safely reopening schools. It includes things like wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing, which CMS said it is implementing.
The CDC also rolled out a color-coded system. Schools in blue or yellow are encouraged to reopen fully in-person because transmission in low.
CMS was in the “Red Zone.”
CMS’s metric update Monday showed the positivity rate, which is a county statistic, moved from red to yellow. The rate is less than 10%, which is the lowest it’s been since November.
Middle and high school students begin a hybrid plan next Monday, and if parents aren’t comfortable, they can keep their kids all virtual.