CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After reviewing data, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has changed its course on the district’s reopening plans for the upcoming school year.
CMS called an emergency meeting on Thursday to announce that schools will begin the 2020-21 school year with “Plan C,” the fully remote option.
The new reopening plans were voted on by the school board, and it passed unanimously.
Students will start fully remote instruction beginning Aug. 17, and will continue until it is safe to enter the school buildings and be near their peers, according to CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston.
“I think fully remote is our best option right now,” Winston said. “I know students and teachers were looking forward to reuniting and the students were counting down the days to when they could see their classmates. Unfortunately, that cannot happen right now.”
At the emergency meeting, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education discussed modifications to the current reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
School officials cited staffing shortages and new data as the reasoning behind the changed decision.
Winston said the district is starting the school year off with a shortage of nurses, bus drivers, custodians and teachers.
He said there are 50 custodial vacancies, more than 80 bus driver vacancies (in part due to DMV delays), more than 40 nurse vacancies and 70 teacher vacancies.
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.
“Could we open on Aug 17? I believe we could,” Winston said. “But the staffing challenges would have compromised our ability to do that effectively and in a safe manner.”
The board also discussed plans for students who have an identified disability.
Officials say there are 20,000 students in the district with identified disabilities.
Therefore, CMS is providing in-person instruction opportunities to identified students with disabilities to the extent the district is able to safely do so. The opportunity is for identified students with disabilities who don’t have the ability to learn through remote instruction.
The district says it is not a requirement for parents to reach out to the school, but rather, the schools will send letters and information to families.
The former plan, “Plan B + Remote,”, was designed to send students back to school for two weeks of in-person instruction, and then move to fully remote after that.
Now, CMS has chosen to forego allowing students and staff back into the buildings until further notice.
“The virus has continued to spread here in Mecklenburg County,” Winston said. “We also have new information on how the virus has had an impact on our staff in some of our key departments in the district. These departments have a crucial role in opening the schools.”
Currently, Winston said he is unsure when CMS plans to reopen its schools for in-person instruction, but it will be when health officials deem it to be safe.
Winston said there have also been delays in safety protection equipment.
“This entire community, Charlotte-Mecklenburg must do our part to wear masks, wash our hands and social distance in order to get back into schools,” Winston said.
CMS gave students the option for the CMS Full Remote Academy.
In the emergency meeting, the board discussed modifications to the 2020-2021 school calendars for middle college and early college programs.
Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and the associated orders from Mecklenburg County and the governor limiting the number of individuals in an enclosed space, Thursday’s school board meeting was conducted virtually for the Board and for the public.