CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) went back to school Monday for the 2019-2020 school year with a new leader - Superintendent Earnest Winston - in charge of the district.
Throughout the day Monday, Winston made stops at several district locations. First at the CMS bus lot on Orr Road, sending well wishes to bus drivers as they started their day.
Although faced with a packed schedule, Winston made an effort to greet students individually and wish them a successful first day back and a great school year.
At 6 a.m., Winston gave an update on bus driver vacancies heading into the first day of school. Winston says the district has 39 vacancies, a number which has increased since just two weeks ago when the district had 15 vacancies.
When asked why there was such an increase of vacancies over such a short amount of time, Winston explained many drivers might have had personal reasons for not taking the job, such as making the decision the job “wasn’t right for them.” Despite the vacancies, however, Winston says they are training at least 15 more drivers and plan to have 5 more on the road by the end of the week.
Right now, CMS sits at 99 percent of teacher vacancies filled in the district.
Next, the superintendent visited Joseph W. Grier Academy where the school held a celebratory assembly accepting donations from Office Depot in partnership with Domtar Paper’s for their Start Proud program. The program’s donations gave 1,000 fully-stocked new backpacks to Joseph W. Grier students, several pallets of school supplies for the entire school and highlighted a standout teacher.
Each year Start Proud selects 18 Title I schools, and this year Joseph W. Grier was chosen for donations through the program. Winston briefly spoke to students and faculty, thanking the staff’s hard work and students’ dedication to getting an education.
From there, Winston traveled to Mallard Creek High School where he gave an update on how the first half of the first day back had gone. Winston reported there were no delays on bus routes or pickups and explained that although delays could be inevitable, he wants to make sure students get home safely.
“I would rather be delayed and we do things right than rush things," Winston said. "I want to do it right. We have many new drivers this school year.”
Winston says overall the first day back for CMS was smooth sailing.
However, when explaining what “grade” he’d score the district on the first day back, he said that he is giving it an “incomplete” at the moment.
As of 5p.m., Winston says the district expected for students to have delays on school buses and even students who were scheduled for a 6 p.m. drop off could face up to an hour delay before getting to their drop off location.
He said due to drivers getting familiar with their routes, plus issues with the tier system used to send buses out for certain drop off times, the district was experiencing delays.
Winston also reported there was a faulty fire alarm set off at one elementary school but no threat was determined and it was deemed accidental.
The district also confirmed there were two minor school bus crashes. One in the morning involving a school bus and a motorcycle and a separate afternoon crash involving a school bus and a CATS bus. No students were injured in either crash.