MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board has voted unanimously on an all remote option for the start of the 2020 school year. During an emergency meeting on Thursday, board members cited a staffing shortage as the reason for moving to Plan C.
CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said new information about the virus’ impact on the staff and the community was part of the reason behind his recommendation to move to an all-remote option.
“We are prepared however there are just some things out of our control new information regarding staff and challenges. These things make it challenging and compromise our ability to safely and effectively open school with students on Aug. 17th," Winston said.
School board members agreed a staffing shortage made it impossible to open schools safely for the first two weeks of classes. As of July 14, more than 1,300 staff members within in the school system had requested alternative work arrangements instead of returning to schools for in-person learning. More than 100 other staff members said they would resign, retire or apply for a leave of absence.
Superintendent Winston said staffing vacancies range from nursing staff, bus drivers and custodians as well as teachers and teachers aides.
This full remote learning option is worrisome for some Charlotte parents.
“Some people use this as babysitting system," CMS parent, Kristin said. "That’s not how I look at the school. I look at the school as an education. I didn’t go to school to be a teacher so I have no idea how to teach my daughter.”
Other parents are also torn between advocating for a sense of normalcy to get their students back in the classroom without risking their child's health and others.
“I don’t want to send her into the lion’s den and get the virus but I want her to have that social interaction,” Kristin said.
And ultimately one of the biggest issues is inequality and the potential financial burden or disadvantage for some students unable to afford the option for smaller tutoring groups.
But the district said during this virtual transition, it hopes to keep every student's needs in mind.
"I urge us to look at reopening through a lens of equity in targeting our services to those who need it most," said CMS Board Member, Carol Sawyer.
The board previously moved ahead with a Plan-B Plus Remote option. Under that plan, students would be divided into three groups and report to school for in-person onboarding instruction for several days at the beginning of the school year. Then by week three, all learning will be remote.
About one-third of the student body was already signed up for a full remote learning option. According to CMS, 52,552 kids had registered for full virtual learning as of Monday.
The WCNC Charlotte staff spoke to several teachers who raised concerns about returning to the classroom under Plan B. Some spoke about health conditions that made them hesitant to return to an environment which may put them at high-risk for complications from coronavirus.
Some North Carolina districts initially chose a more restrictive Plan C model, which is full remote learning for the immediate future.