CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board voted Thursday to remain virtual until at least Feb. 12.
The recommendation passed 8-1 during an emergency meeting held at 10:30 a.m. CMS was set to allow students to return to in-person learning starting next week, however county Public Health Director Gibbie Harris recently recommended that schools remain in remote learning for at least another three weeks.
Now that the recommendation passed, CMS will reevaluate at a Feb. 9 board meeting and students could go back potentially on February 15.
The CMS board made the vote last month to move the remaining students who are still in-person learning (Pre-K and students in Exceptional Children’s program) to fully remote learning until Jan. 19.
The rest of the district was already fully remote, so that means all of CMS will now be fully remote until Jan. 19.
On Tuesday, Harris issued a directive asking residents to stay home as much as possible for the next three weeks as the fight continues against COVID-19. It also recommended that schools switch to virtual learning, but did not mandate it.
This was the main reason why CMS called Thursday’s emergency board meeting and moved to a new plan to not bring students back to in-person learning until February.
Superintendent Winston said CMS was ready to bring students and staff back safely on the 19th. But the county wasn’t.
The vote passed 8-1. Board member Sean Strain was the only one against the vote entirely. He said getting kids back to in-person learning should be the priority and that COVID-19 has not been linked to spreading in schools.
”What’s she’s asked us to do is continue to deny education our children as well as we can,” Strain said speaking about Mecklenburg County public health director, Gibbie Harris.
Harris said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that her first priority is getting students back into schools as well. But said because of the viral spread and how much of it is in the community right now, it’s not completely safe to be in school.
Board member Margaret Marshall says the community needs to bear down with the safety measures the next month so students can get back to school in February.
“We’ve got to get back on the 22nd. Everything we can do as a community to get healthier,” she said.
Many parents were happy with the decision, including Stacy Staggs, who helps advocate for CMS parents.
“We all want our students, our children to go back to school in classrooms, but it has to be done safely,” Staggs said. “That’s not what our community metrics allow right now. That’s the point.”
Other parents are also hoping for the return to school as soon as possible.
“Whatever we can do to get our kids back in school. If that’s our small part to play, then we’ll do it,” said Kay Fisher.
More than 70 parents, staff members and teachers spoke at CMS Board of Education Tuesday’s meeting where they discussed changing the plan but did not vote.
They told the school board that it’s inequitable for sports and athletics to be allowed to happen when performing arts practices and performances are not allowed.
Another parent asked the board for CMS to go with Plan C, and then set a date at a later time to reevaluate. She said, “kids are suffering from the fatigue of constantly switching plans.”
Another CMS teacher told the board, “once again we are putting our lives on the line,” by going back to in-person learning.
Another teacher asked why the CMS board is in a rush to get students back into the classroom during the pandemic. The teacher said they shouldn’t be having to choose between the love of their jobs and the love of their own lives.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the board voted to grant CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston sole authority to move portions of schools into remote learning, meaning he could essentially move certain grade levels of schools to remote learning if they meet criteria.
“That directive...what this tells us is our ability to open schools and keep them open depends on more than what we can control,” Winston said. “Community spread is high and we all have a responsibility to get this back under control.”