CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials voted 7-1-1 Wednesday night to adopt their Plan B+ remote plan.
When students return to school on Aug. 17, they will head back to the classroom -- but only for a limited time. CMS will break students into three groups. Those groups will have a few days of in-person instruction during the first two weeks of school. Then learning will be conducted remotely for an indefinite period of time starting from Week 3.
- Group A would go to school Monday through Wednesday of the first week
- Group B would go to school Thursday and Friday of the first week and then Monday and Tuesday of the second week
- Group C would go to school Wednesday through Friday of the second week
- Starting on week 3, all students will learn remotely indefinitely
CMS leaders are balancing how to ensure students have everything they need for remote learning while also knowing there are significant barriers as the school year approaches. They said they need more time to get kids and students adjusted.
Parents can also opt for a full-time remote learning academy if they don’t want to send their kids back at all.
CMS board member Thelma Byers-Bailey said bringing students back for a few days will allow them to get technology, meet their teachers, and get prepared for remote learning.
“Everybody is accounted for,” she said. “We don’t have to run down in the parking lot. They come in, get their equipment, they meet their teacher. They know how remote works and if they don’t understand it, they can sit with their teacher and work through it.”
CMS leaders heard from numerous experts before making the decision, including Dr. Catherine Ohmstede of Novant Health. She’s a pediatrician, who said the science shows that kids aren’t spreading the virus to adults. And if children do contract COVID-19, the symptoms are almost always mild.
She said she would feel comfortable sending her sixth and eighth graders back to school if in-person learning was offered.
Some school leaders tried to get kids back in school for more than 3 or 4 days, but ultimately failed.
A lot of what CMS decided is centered around the state’s requirements for reopening schools. That includes requiring face coverings for all students K-12, teachers and staff. The state will provide five reusable masks for each person to help with that. Schools will also have to screen students every day, including temperature checks. The state will also send supplies for that.
Gov. Roy Cooper recommended Tuesday a combination of in-person and virtual learning, but districts do not have to follow that guidance.
The plan is flexible and officials could bring students back if the county can get a hold of the spread of COVID-19. It is not clear how they would go about doing that.
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South Carolina state leaders are taking a different approach, emphasizing parents’ choice. Gov. Henry McMaster said schools have to offer in-person instruction five days a week and virtual learning.
“This is going to affect the lives of everyone differently,” parent Brittany Wise said.
Many parents, students and teachers are feeling stress, fear, confusion and uncertainty.
“It’s a mix of emotions, to be honest really during this time of crisis because if you send your children back to school, it could be the possibility of them getting sick,” Wise said.
She hopes students can return to class in some capacity because of the challenges presented by remote-learning.
“Some parents have the time to be able to give their children the quality attention, and some others don’t,” Wise said. “It doesn’t mean they’re bad parents. Who’s going to be the caretaker if it’s done completely remotely?”
“It is a difficult time and it’s disrupting, but I mean there’s not much we can do,” Lavanda Robinson said. “Just keep the students safe, whatever keeps her safe.”
Robinson’s brother goes to school in the CMS district and said he’s worried about a hybrid of in-person and remote learning because it could be confusing for families.
“I feel like a one-track thing,” Robinson said. “Just to do remote learning at home. Be safe in your own house, you don’t have to worry about somebody that may be affected that’s asymptomatic.”
Some parents question if remote learning in the fall will be the same as last spring. Remote learning that happened in March mostly came together overnight.
Districts and state leaders have been working over the last few months to improve virtual learning, so it is as effective and comprehensive as possible. However, many would still argue it's still not the same as being in the classroom.
The president of the North Carolina Association of Educators said their priority is the safety of students and staff. Tamika Walker Kelly said there are still concerns although they are happy the governor made a decision regarding reopening plans for schools.
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“(There are) varying opinions and feelings from our educators all over the state but the main thing that we are concerned about is, we can’t even start the conversation because we don’t know if all the resources are going to be there,” Kelly said.
She said she’s not only referencing personal protective equipment, sanitizer and deep cleaning supplies. She’s also calling on the General Assembly to bring in more people.
“But we also need lots of personnel, which we already needed before,” Kelly said. “Make sure that we aren’t cutting any positions and that we have additional nurses and social-emotional in place for our students. Our General Assembly can provide that funding.”
Survey results have also been released from CMS staff on whether they will return to the classroom. An intent-to-return survey for school-based staff is something done every year.
However, a new question was added this year relating to COVID-19, which could affect staffing:
- Just over 12,000 participants responded as of Tuesday.
- 10,651 said they intend to remain in their current assignment and would report in-person
- 1,306 staff members are requesting alternate work for reasons related to COVID-19.
NCAE responds to governor’s decision on school re-opening:
“Educators want to be back in school buildings. We miss and value the relationships we have with students and their families. The careful approach Governor Cooper has taken in all of his re-opening decisions has been deeply appreciated, and while we understand that this was a difficult choice, we must make the safety of our educators and students the first priority,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “Unfortunately, educators and parents have been presented with a false dichotomy: the public schools we love, or our safety. We can have both. In order to safely re-open all schools in a way that will protect the health of both students and educators, a significant amount of resources is required. The General Assembly has simply refused to appropriate them. This General Assembly must step up and do their jobs to provide the necessary funding for public schools so that we as educators can do our jobs to safely educate all of North Carolina’s students. NCAE members have been on the front lines of this pandemic since it began. We have supported and led families through the greatest period of uncertainty of our lifetime. We intend to lead in our communities so that when we see our students and families again, we are able to welcome them into fully resourced, safe learning and working environments for us all.”
Cox Media Group