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'We are going to have cases as we open up' | CMS unveils metrics it will use to measure school safety

The CMS Metrics committee met on Thursday morning showcasing the dashboard that will be used to guide decision makers about the return to school.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Students in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools could soon be making a return to classrooms, as the committee of medical and education professionals tasked with setting recommendations for a safe return, gives a green light to many key metrics.

The CMS Metrics committee met on Thursday morning showcasing the dashboard that will be used to guide decisionmakers about the return to school.

The metrics include public health data and Covid spread in the community. 

"We are going to have cases as we open up we’ve said that from the beginning," said Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris.

Committee members agreed that CMS will need to monitor cases in schools as well as any potential clusters.

Credit: CMS
Credit: CMS

The metrics will be assessed on a green, yellow and red scale. Green means that it is likely safe for a return to in-person instruction, yellow means a cautionary return where a mix of in-person and remote learning should be considered, and red means the conditions are unsafe or not up to par with what’s required for in-person instruction.

“The green is obviously we’re in good shape, the yellow is we need to consult with our health officials, and red is substantial community spread,” said pediatrician Dr. Meg Sullivan. “The idea with these metrics is that you look at it over a 7 day period and if it changes from one color to another for 14 days or more that would be the time that you would look at the next color and decide what you needed to act on.”

Sullivan said as of September 10th, Mecklenburg County is in the yellow category for Covid-19 spread.

Other metrics will include preparedness and readiness of the schools, as well as operational metrics like staffing.

Credit: CMS
Credit: CMS

The committee said most of the staffing categories are in the green level, however, they encouraged the district leaders to continue to pay attention to the custodial vacancies, and the nursing vacancies.

Harris said schools also need to have clear plans established for identifying and isolating sick students, encouraging staff to be trained to look for warning signs.

"Having a nurse in a school is not gonna prevent COVID from occurring in a school," Harris said.

The committee plans to submit the dashboard to the CMS Board for its meeting next week. It is possible the board will set dates for a phased-in return to classrooms in that meeting said Kathy Elling, CMS Community Superintendent.

"We will get this dashboard ready so the school board has guidelines for their consideration as we move to transition to Plan B next week," Elling said.

As the committee wrapped up what is expected to be its final meeting before decisions are made, members cautioned the community that a return to in-person instruction could still change at any time.

 "I don’t have a crystal ball, nobody does, but we will do our utmost to provide the safest and most productive conditions we can for both our staff and students," Elling said.