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CMS board votes to increase in-person learning for all students

All Charlotte-Mecklenburg students from K-12 will attend school more often for in-person learning.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education has voted to send students into classrooms for more in-person learning.

The changes will impact students at every grade level from K-12, with the goal being more in-person instruction. 

Last week, the North Carolina State Board of Education voted to have all districts reopen for in-person learning by the end of March. The state also issued new COVID-19 safety measures, recommending masks in all schools and social distancing for middle and high school students.

Starting March 15, middle and high schoolers will go in-person two days per week. Group A will attend classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays while Group B will attend in-person on Thursdays and Fridays.

The plan will have elementary students in school four days per week starting March 22.

All students K-12 will be learning remotely on Wednesdays.

Currently, most elementary students are on an A/B schedule with in-person classes twice per week and remote learning the other three days. Those students have been going to school for in-person learning since Feb. 15. 

Middle and high school students are currently divided into three groups with one week of in-person learning followed by two weeks of remote instruction. That schedule began on Feb. 22.

"It's not easy. The struggles are real. the tears are real," said Meg Kemp, a mother of two CMS students, who wants them in-person five days a week.

She's worried about the mental consequences virtual learning has had on her children.

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"I'm seeing the massive meltdowns," Kemp said. "I mean my kindergartener cries, screaming he doesn't want to get on Zoom anymore, he's tired of learning this way."

While the move is supported by Gov. Roy Cooper and other state leaders, some parents and teachers aren't on board just yet. 

“It’s moving really quickly, maybe too quickly,” Steve Oreskovic, an eighth-grade teacher for CMS, said. “Teachers just started getting vaccinated." 

Oreskovic spoke to the school board Tuesday night, saying teachers need time to get fully vaccinated. He and other teachers wanted more time to prepare for an increase in in-person instruction.

"We could have been planning for this over the past month, but instead you've hid your intentions from us. To reopen in such large numbers, with three days
notice seems irresponsible," said CMS teacher Meredith Fox.

Health Director Gibbie Harris said Tuesday she's been frustrated by an apparent prioritization of sports over resuming in-person school. Last week, CMS lifted its cap on spectators at outdoor sporting events to 500. Harris has been vocal about her support for finding a way to get students back into the classroom for several months.

"Nothing frustrates me, and this is all just my opinion, nothing frustrates me more than it has felt we are prioritizing sports over schools," Harris said. "When we look at the stats, sports has more outbreaks."

RELATED: 'I can't make that decision for you': Health director's emails contradict school reopening guidance

CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston said, at this point, he plans to reopen all schools at normal capacity in August, five days a week

"We can safely and effectively achieve the goal of more frequent in-person learning for our students," Winston said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

An increase in in-person learning may be connected to data that shows the pandemic is causing more students to fail than before.

According to CMS data, Black, Latinx and Native American students saw their course failures triple in the first semester of this school year. In English, failure rates for Black students went from 8% to 22%. For Hispanic students, the rate was 25%, up from 8% the year prior. White and Asian students saw 6 and 7% failure rates, respectively, an increase of just one or two percentage points.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.

RELATED: Parents excited over increased spectators at CMS sporting events