CMS votes to push back in-person learning for middle school students until January

Updated: Nov. 11, 2020 at 5:56 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Major changes were voted on Tuesday that will affect Charlotte-Mecklenburg School families, especially those with 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

During a school board meeting, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education voted to revise the timeline for middle school students to return to in-person instruction.

Instead of returning for in-person instruction in two weeks, on Nov. 23, CMS middle school students won’t return to the classroom until Jan. 5.

However, if a public school is a school that has kindergarten through 8th grade, they return for in-person instruction on Nov. 30.

“I don’t think it’s fair on the kids," one CMS parent told Education Reporter Chandler Morgan.

Wednesday morning, that parent had to break the news to her 6th grade son; he wont be heading back into the classroom this semester.

“His biggest concern was, you know, ‘I really wanted to get back, my grades are suffering..’ it does impact their confidence,” said the parent.

District officials said they don’t have enough bus drivers if they were to bring all of their middle school students back like they originally planned.

Several Board Members during the meeting, including Rhonda Cheek, pressed CMS transportation and management trying to get to the bottom of what went wrong with planning.

“Did we think before this week that we’d need to survey families and find out how many are going to ride our buses?" asked Cheek.

To which Executive Director of Transportation, Adam Johnson said, “I’m not aware of a survey that was done to check with parents if kids would ride the bus or not.”

But even then, Johnson said threes still staffing shortages.

“Once that leave was offered to employees and that federal leave was taken.. and rightfully so…we weren’t ready for that when it really ramped up," said Johnson.

CMS families say they’re fed up with excuses.

The school board had to make a tough decision to push back middle school student’s return to schools back until after winter break.

“Nothing is stable, everything is ever-changing,” said Darina Cooper, who teaches at Walter G. Byers, a kindergarten through 8th-grade school in CMS. “We need consistency, especially in buildings with K to 8.” Tuesday night’s decision by the CMS school board might take things one step closer to that consistency.

But it does, once again, involve major scheduling changes. If your child is a middle school student at a K-8th school, they will now go back later than originally scheduled, which is now Nov. 30, after Thanksgiving break.

This will put all K-8 students on the same rotation as kindergarten to 5th-grade schools. They will have two in-person school days each week.

However, if your child is in a traditional middle school, they will not return for in-person learning until Jan. 5, the same day high schools return.

At that time, they will follow a three-part rotation.

“We can change our plan on a moment’s notice and fly by the seat of our pants, but our ability to do that during this has truly been tested,” Cooper said.

CMS says it has six bus driver vacancies, but the main issue is that the district has 122 school bus drivers on leave. That leave is legal.

The drivers are federally allowed to take leave during this pandemic.

But combined with North Carolina’s Executive Order requiring CMS to seat no more than 24 students on a bus, it leaves the district without enough staffing.

“If we had the flexibility and we were not under those restrictions, we would not be having this conversation,” said Carol Stamper, from CMS facilities management. “We would be able to make this work.”

One thing that did not change tonight, at some point, all CMS students, including students in the full remote academy, will have to come back for in-person testing at the end of this semester.

That’s something that is state-mandated and would require a waiver at the state level to be changed.

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