Parents, teachers voice concerns as CMS discusses plans to bring students back to classrooms

Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 11:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Both parents and teachers had the opportunity to address the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education Tuesday night.

The board members met virtually for their regularly scheduled meeting.

Several members of the public signed up to speak at the beginning of the meeting.

Mary McCormick, a CMS parent, used her three-minute time allotment to voice her frustrations with remote learning. McCormick told the board that both her 7-year-old and 9-year-old had been struggling to learn from home.

“We are right back to where we were in March – a total disaster,” said McCormick.

The frustrated mother said the lack of in-person instruction was resulting in her daughter falling behind her peers in the learning process.

“How is my learning-delayed EC child with a lack of social skills learning anything sitting at my dining room table?” questioned McCormick.

Another CMS parent, Jamie Keogh, explained that his children were also fairing poorly with remote learning. He urged the board to get students back into classrooms.

“While I understand we have to have choice, we do have to do in-person teaching. They’re just not learning. It’s not satisfactory what’s going on,” said Keogh.

While families across the metro area are experiencing remote learning challenges, teachers like Amanda Thompson-Rice expressed concern about trying to teach some students at school and some students who are still at home. CMS' current plan to bring students back to the classrooms would not have entire classrooms learning together.

“It is impossible for teachers to be effective and teach three different subgroups – in-person, remote learning rotation, and full remote - at the same time,” said Thompson-Rice. “It’s not feasible and the education experience will suffer. Teacher’s will leave.”

Kathy Elling, chief school performance officer with CMS, presented the school system’s latest COVID-19 metrics during the meeting. Most metrics showed minimal community spread of the virus, but a couple did indicate moderate spread. For instance, the data showed that more than 10 schools have had at least one positive COVID-19 case within the past 14 days.

Following the presentation of the metrics, one school board member questioned the length of the extended plan to bring students back to classrooms.

The start dates for the phases go as follows:

  • Sept. 29: Students in Exceptional Children (EC) programs return.
  • Oct. 12: Pre-K students return.
  • Nov. 2: K-5 students return (grade levels rotate with A,B,C cohorts).
  • Nov. 23: Middle school students return (grade levels rotate with A,B,C cohorts).
  • Dec. 14: High school students return for end of semester in-person testing, but in-person instruction doesn’t start until Jan. 5. (grade levels rotate with A,B,C cohorts)

“I’d like some further justification as to the three-week lag and how that is necessary knowing full-well that every one of the 13 days between now and when we enter elementary schools on the second of November, makes a difference,” said board member Sean Strain.

Strain then questioned CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston about the safety of bringing people back to school buildings.

“I believe that at this particular point in time that we are safe and I do think that as we continue to phase in students for in-person learning, that we as a community have a responsibility to not let our guards down,” said Winston.

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