COVID-19News & Opinion

CMS Rolls Out Reopening Plan for In-Person Learning

Pre-K students to return next month

Local parents now have a timeline for when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) students will return to in-person learning after local and state leaders announced plans earlier this week. On Wednesday, the CMS Board of Education voted to roll out a phased plan that allows students to return to in-person learning by grade level. 

The CMS plan to return will begin with Pre-K students on Oct. 12, followed by elementary school students in November.

On Thursday, Gov. Cooper announced that public schools will be allowed to accept elementary school students on Oct. 5, paving the way for the CMS plan to begin. If no new COVID-19 outbreaks put a halt to the plan, it will proceed as such: 

  • Pre-K students will return first on Oct. 12. 
  • K-5 students will return to classrooms on a rotational basis, starting on Nov. 2.
  • Middle school students will return to classrooms on a rotational basis starting on Nov. 23. 
  • High school students will return to classrooms for testing the weeks of Dec. 14 and Dec. 21, and then return to classrooms on a rotational basis for instruction on Jan. 5. 

Students have not been attending school in person since Feb. 21, when officials called a snow day, then labored over how to move forward until Cooper closed schools statewide on March 14

In a press conference on Thursday, Cooper announced options for opening North Carolina public schools, giving elementary schools the choice to implement “Plan A” on Oct. 5. Plan A includes fully in-person classes with students required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Districts are able to pick a plan based on their discretion and the current progression of cases in the area. Middle and high schools can pick between Plan B (partially in-person and partially remote) or Plan C (fully remote).  

Teachers React to Reopening Plan

One CMS high school teacher we spoke to, who asked to remain anonymous, said she worried for the safety of herself, her students and her fellow teachers.

I’m concerned that we are moving too quickly,” she told Queen City Nerve. “Decisions that should be made based on the safety of students and teachers have unfortunately become politicized.”

A second-grade teacher at a local charter school that has implemented virtual learning to begin the 2020-21 school year said she’s concerned Cooper’s announcement will lead to a hasty reopening. 

“I am lucky in that I work at a school that is focused on the health and safety of others and it’s staff … but I know that many schools who are already in person have expressed extreme dissatisfaction with how the plan has been implemented,” said the charter school teacher, who also wished to remain anonymous. “Accountability varies widely and there are just so many things that have popped up that have lead to issues. The [Exceptional Children] population in these schools have had a variety of challenges — especially for the medically fragile students — to deal with and I fear what that will look like for the rest of the county.

“There are too many variables I am worried about,” she continued. “Too many parents who are treating this like a joke or conspiracy. I love this job and I love my students but I’m worried what sort of risks and challenges lie ahead for them.” 

CMS facilities have been empty of students since February. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Responding to Cooper’s announcement on Thursday, NC Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Mark Johnson said, “It’s great news today that we are a step closer to providing the option of in-person learning to families who want their children to return to school. While the Governor, the State Board of Education, and I have our differences, I join with them today to encourage local school board members to take advantage of this change and open all schools safely.” 

Johnson later told WRAL he believed all students should be allowed to return to in-person learning next month. 

In Thursday’s press conference, Cooper said North Carolina is meeting the statewide goal of a 5% test positivity rate, which he said shows preventative measures are working. 

According to the most recent data from Mecklenburg County regarding the 27,394 cases among county residents through Wednesday, the test-positivity rate over the past week locally is at 5.6%, a decrease compared to the previous 14 days. There has been an average of 104 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on any given day over the last week in Mecklenburg County, also a decrease from the previous two weeks. 

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