CMS gives superintendent authority to switch schools from in-person to remote as needed

CHARLOTTE — As COVID-19 cases rise in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district, the superintendent has been given the authority to move individual schools from in-person to remote instruction as needed.

The CMS school board made the decision Tuesday during an emergency meeting and said it will ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

[WSOC SPECIAL SECTION: RETURN TO LEARNING]

Superintendent Earnest Winston now has the flexibility to make decisions on a school-by-school basis to ensure the entire district isn’t impacted when just one school needs to go remote.

“The COVID-19 pandemic requires us to pivot quickly and decisively,” said Board Chair Elyse Dashew. “If a school’s metrics indicate a risk to students or staff, or if staffing levels are so reduced by quarantines, leaves or illness that it’s impossible to operate an individual school safely, we need speedy decision-making. Giving Superintendent Winston this authority will make that possible.”

The switch could be made if the health department directs an individual school building to be closed for COVID reasons, school and health officials believe that remote learning is the safest option at the time or if Winston determines staffing is at a point where they need to go remote.

Channel 9 learned that Metro School and Charlotte Mecklenburg Academy were closed Tuesday because of staffing challenges. Officials said several staff members are on leave and a significant number are in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure. The schools provide highly specialized instruction for their students that substitutes can’t provide, which is another reason they had to close.

According to Winston, about 50% of staff was impacted at Charlotte Mecklenburg Academy, forcing the district to move kids to online learning.

Winston can return students to in-person instruction as soon as he determines it is safe. The additional authority expires on June 30, 2021.

“Obviously, we want to keep students in the classroom as much as we can during this unprecedented time,” Winston said. “But we also want to keep them safe – and this virus can move very quickly, so we need to be able to move quickly too.”

When a school must move to remote learning, parents will be notified by school staff through Connect5. District leaders are monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases at each school and providing a weekly group of metrics to the Board and the public.

The district reported Monday that there are nearly 90 positive cases among student and staff.

School Board Chair Elyse Dashew provided some clarity on who is included in these case counts in a Facebook post.

[CMS delays middle schoolers’ return to classrooms due to staffing shortage]

If a CMS employee tests positive, they will be included in the case count regardless of whether they work remotely or in person.

The district reports cases only for those students who have returned to in-person learning and for students who are practicing sports in person.

>> CLICK HERE to see the CMS Metrics Dashboard

Dashew said the process involves a lot of communication between CMS and the county health department.

CMS reported Monday that:

  • The number of student cases is 30, which is up from 18 in the previous week
  • The number of staff cases is 60, which is up from 30 in the previous week
  • 76 schools have had at least one positive case within 14 days
  • Mecklenburg County’s percent positivity rate up
  • There are no clusters
  • 8 schools have 15 or more people in active quarantine
  • Transportation staffing is at 83.2% of regular staffing numbers

The school board also talked about the possibility of having the flexibility of moving specific grades or programs remote as opposed to impacting an entire school, but that idea has not been approved.

For families looking for safe remote learning environments for their students, CMS has partnered with various organizations around the community. CLICK HERE for more information.