The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted to revise its school reopening plan and approved a full-remote learning plan, known as Plan C, during an emergency called meeting today. With this decision, CMS schools will open Aug. 17 with fully remote learning.
The plan is designed to address worsening COVID-19 conditions and was an option given to districts by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper in a statewide announcement on July 14.
“With new information becoming available to us since we initially voted to open schools with two weeks of staggered in-classroom onboarding, we feel this decision better reflects the current environment and offers us the best opportunity to educate our students while protecting student and staff health,” said
Elyse Dashew, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education chairperson.
Among new information, the Board cited as making the change necessary were public health studies and statistics made public after the original July 15 Board vote. Other information presented included staffing challenges becoming evident in recent weeks. CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston shared with Board members data showing significant needs remaining in critical areas such as transportation, custodial staff, and school nurses. These positions traditionally prove challenging to staff fully at the beginning of each school year, but COVID-19 pandemic conditions have contributed to even more significant numbers of vacancies.
“We have new information about how the virus has had an impact on staff in some of our key departments,” said Winston. “These departments play a central role in opening schools for an in-person experience. It is important that everyone understand that we want our students and teachers back in school but only when it is safe to do so.”
Earlier Board meetings and district communication provided detailed information about the school system’s plan for a more robust remote learning experience compared to the last quarter of the previous school year. At today’s meeting, CMS leaders presented updates for providing opportunities for exceptional children whose learning cannot be adequately provided in a remote environment. The Board approved plans to provide in-classroom instruction for students with disabilities preventing them from receiving the instruction they need online.
Under Plan C, teachers and school-based staff without approved medical remote work requests are expected to report to their assigned school facilities from Aug. 6-14 for preparation and professional development. Teachers and school-based staff are strongly encouraged to report to facilities to provide remote instruction from Aug. 17-28 – the last day of the second full week of remote instruction. Beginning Aug. 31, teachers and school-based staff are encouraged to continue working from school buildings, but may work remotely.
Health and safety protocols and procedures previously shared with principals and staff will remain in place to mitigate risks and ensure a safe return to facilities. Teachers in at-risk categories may apply for exceptions to the requirement to report in-person.
Winston and other CMS leaders emphasized the work leadership staff, principals, teachers, and staff have completed to date to make the 2020-2021 school year successful and said providing best-in-class educational opportunity remains the objective of all CMS schools and personnel.
“Earlier today I shared a message with our principals and staff encouraging them to remain focused on our students. That is our highest priority whether we are together in the classroom, or connected virtually,” Winston said.