CMS middle, high school students return to classrooms after nearly a year

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was a big day for a lot of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools families -- thousands of middle and high school students returned to the classroom Monday for the first time in almost a year.

13,000 students returned to their classrooms for the first time since last March.

After months of remote learning, they were able to walk the hallways, see their teachers and also see fellow students in person.

“I’m just praying that everything goes well,” said Eastway Middle School parent Sheltavia Grier. “I’m glad she’ll have a little more hands-on help here versus -- I have seven kids so it’s a little crazy at times, but I’m super excited for today.”

For this group, it was their first time getting temperatures checked at the door, answering the symptom screener questions and sitting socially distant in a classroom. They now join their younger CMS counterparts, and students in other counties in this strange new school reality.

“I’m praying that the teachers are doing their safety stuff,” Grier said. “I’m praying that everybody wears their mask.”

“I’m excited to be with the teacher and be like, full-on, hands-on, get to learn,” high school senior Cole Brewer said. “If I have a problem -- raise my hand, she comes to me and that stuff.”

Before students boarded the bus, they had to fill out a symptom screener, and another one before they arrived at school.

CMS encourages parents or the student to fill it out online. The three health questions determine if you should send your child to class.

To help with social distancing, middle and high school students at CMS are divided into three groups. Each group will rotate going to school for one week and then remote learning for two weeks.

CMS said there will be safety protocols in place such as required masks, temperature checks, and one-way arrows in the hallways.

As for the buses, school leaders said bus drivers will have plenty of extra protective gear such as masks, face shields, hand sanitizer and gloves.

Buses can hold about 50 to 60 students, which is about half the normal capacity for social distancing.

For some students, it is also a change of school buildings. Many sixth graders are going into new middle schools and ninth graders are going to high school for the first time.

Younger students in the district were back in classrooms on Feb. 15 for the first time in months.

For the students in traditional middle and high schools, their rotation schedule could be changing.

“We know that our students in the A-B-C rotation, the number of days that they are scheduled to be in person varies,” said CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.

Before visiting Eastway Middle School, Winston told Channel 9 education reporter Elsa Gillis that a proposed revised calendar can be expected.

“So, what we want to do is sort of balance that out a little bit and that the impetus for us to bringing back to our board of education a calendar that balances those days out a little more evenly amongst all of the rotations,” he said.

On Monday CMS also updated its COVID-19 cases information for the district.

Over the past week, 47 students and 26 staff members tested positive for the virus, compared to 31 student cases and 49 staff cases the week prior.

43,000 students and 19,000 staff were attending in-person for both of those reports.