The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education acted Sept. 14 to maintain and strengthen health protections for students and staff during the continuing COVID pandemic, approving universal face coverings in schools and granting the superintendent additional authority to close schools for COVID-related reasons.
"Keeping schools safe for in-person learning remains our top priority – and COVID isn't over," said Elyse Dashew, Board chair. "As much as we all yearn for a return to 'normal,' the metrics measuring this pandemic continue to be a source of concern. In order to protect students and staff, we must maintain universal masking, and we must give Superintendent Earnest Winston the flexibility to pivot quickly if COVID hits a school or part of a school."
The actions are in response to North Carolina Session Law 2021-130, which became law earlier this summer. CMS will continue to require face coverings for all students, staff, volunteers and visitors inside CMS buildings and buses. Exceptions may be granted if an individual meets the criteria set for in the Centers for Disease Control guidelines or the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, including the Strong Schools NC toolkit. The Board of Education is required to review and vote on the face-coverings policy at least once a month.
The law also permits districts to close part or all of a school in the event of a COVID-related staffing shortage or quarantines, and shift to temporary remote instruction. The extended authority will continue for the remainder of the current school year.
"We want our students in classrooms for in-person instruction but we also want to keep them safe and healthy while they are there," said Winston. "Face coverings continue to be an important front-line action we can take for student and staff safety – and we need the ability to react quickly when a school or part of a school appears to be unhealthy. Tonight's actions will benefit our students and staff."