Despite no outbreaks, 102 CMS schools reported a COVID-19 case in past 2 weeks

Despite no outbreaks, 102 CMS schools reported a COVID-19 case in past 2 weeks
The metrics update comes as some board members want to return to remote instruction. (Source: DAVID T. FOSTER III)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - As some Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board members push for a return to remote-only instruction, a growing group of teachers are demanding safer working conditions and want the district to more closely follow its established metrics for holding in-person learning.

petition titled “Safer Schools Now” has drawn more than 900 supporters. The petition calls on the board to adopt five measures in reopening school buildings until a vaccine is widely available.

Those measures include the district improving how it reports cases, possible exposure and quarantine numbers as well as providing all high-risk employees with remote work accommodations.

A virtual rally in support of those reopening conditions is scheduled for Tuesday, the same day as the CMS board’s December meeting. The petition also calls for CMS to improve contact tracing efforts, install portable air filtration systems in classrooms with poor airflow and to follow reopening guidelines based on local COVID-19 trends, which were approved months ago by the board.

The county’s COVID-19 measures have worsened steadily over the previous weeks, indicating greater community spread of the virus. The number of new cases per 100,000 over a 7-day period has been over CMS’s threshold of “substantial spread” for weeks, and the positivity rate entered the red zone as of Friday.

Three board members told the Observer Friday that those numbers were greatly concerning and that it was time to consider shifting the district to virtual instruction. They said they would like to see that conversation take place no later than Tuesday’s scheduled meeting.

During Monday’s metrics update, chief school performance officer Kathy Elling said the district still had no known outbreaks linked to classrooms. But the district reported that more than 100 schools had a positive case in the past 14-day period — the highest that figure has been since some students returned. At total of 102 schools reported one case, and 51 schools had at least two cases reported in that same period.

Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 4, 67 students and 94 staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

At one school, more than 25 people were in quarantine as a result of possible exposures. District leadership has previously said that the ripple effect of quarantines posed the most immediate risk to the ability to keep schools open—with enough staff members out sick or isolating, it became difficult to sufficiently staff schools and maintain safety standards. The board gave authorization to the superintendent to move individual schools to remote learning under such a scenario.

The public can watch the board’s Tuesday meeting on its Facebook page.

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