CMS discusses plans for upcoming school year after N.C. governor delays reopening announcement

CMS discusses plans for upcoming school year after N.C. governor delays reopening announcement

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leadership presented three plans for reopening schools at Wednesday night’s special board meeting.

North Carolina is not yet issuing a statewide directive on how schools should be open in the fall.

Within the next couple of weeks, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper says he will give a directive for reopening schools in the fall after delaying the announcement on Wednesday.

In early June, the state released the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit that laid out essential health practices for schools to re-open safely, the governor said. Schools were asked to prepare three plans.

The first plan is in-person learning with key health and safety rules in place. The second plan is the same as the first plan, but with fewer children in the classroom at one time. And the third plan is virtual learning for all students.

“No matter the decision is our students will be challenged to grow, but they will be safe,” CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said.

Wednesday night, the CMS board shared a glimpse of what the decision could be with three possible options.

Plan A will require all students and staff to return to school for in-classroom learning. This is the least restrictive plan and the one most similar to school openings in prior years. Health and Human Services requirements will be followed, including health screenings and temperature checks for students and staff, and social distancing in hallways and common areas. Symptom screenings and health attestations will be required for use of school transportation.

Plan B presents the scenario where all students would participate in a mix of in-classroom and remote learning. From an operational and academic standpoint, this plan will enable the most students to have a balance of in-classroom and remote learning while maintaining student and staff health and safety.

This is the plan where the most changes happen because it’s the middle between “fully normal” and ‘fully remote’ This plan involves some students possibly rotating schedules, or some students not coming into campus at all.

Under Plan B:

  • All Pre-K through eighth-grade students would attend in-classroom learning Monday-Friday during their assigned week, followed by two weeks of remote learning; one-third of each grade would attend their assigned schools in A week, a different one-third would attend in B week, and the remaining third would attend during C week.
  • Students in grades 9-11 would have an A, B, C schedule, attending in-classroom learning Monday-Thursday during their assigned week, followed by two weeks of remote learning; these students would have remote learning on the Fridays of their assigned in-classroom weeks.
  • 12th-grade students would attend in-classroom learning one day each week; these students would participate in remote learning on all days they are not in the classroom.

Plan C offers a remote-learning environment for all students, with all staff assigned to remote instruction. No students or staff would be in CMS facilities or use CMS transportation. CMS would plans a robust remote-learning experience, using best practices learned in the fourth quarter of the last school year.

CMS also has prepared an option for students K-8 to opt in for fully remote learning, instead of in-person instruction come fall.

Winston says the district is strongly considering buying masks so they could provide them to students who might not be able to get them on their own. Masks would be required for middle and high school students, but only be encouraged for elementary students.

Meanwhile with transportation, under Plan B, CMS says only one student would be allowed per seat. That means 24 students would be able to ride on a school bus at one time which is a third of the capacity of what a CMS bus would normally bring in.

If CMS were to choose Plan B, admins feel they would need to have those new school bus routes set by July 6, because of bus impacts and social distancing.

For daily health screenings at CMS schools, officials estimate it will take about 15 seconds for adult and 30 seconds for students. For example, 3,700 individuals might be getting onto a school campus each day.

“We are committed to helping all students learn and succeed during this pandemic and beyond,” said CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston. “Our teams have worked tirelessly to develop plans that will meet the needs of students and staff, even as conditions shift in our community. Our first priority is to provide a robust educational experience for our students and a safe environment for all.”

CMS says it needs the governor to make a base decision on a plan. Once there, the board will vote on what avenue it will take for students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Gov. Cooper says district and school administrators are still working on ways to implement those plans, and state officials are asking them to keep using this time to work with teachers, staff, parents and public health officials to make sure that schools are opening in the safest possible way.

In late May, CMS said schools would open for students on August 17 after the school board made changes to the 2020-2021 school calendar. A new law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly required public schools to open across the state on Aug. 17 and end before Memorial Day 2021.

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